Hard Truth Distilling Co. is celebrating a milestone with the release of its first bourbons produced grain-to-glass. Known for award-winning craft spirits, sweet mash whiskey, and a 325-acre destination distillery, this moment marks a new chapter in the Hard Truth story.
“We’ve taken a lot of pride in the process of building our distillery and working with industry leaders such as Vendome Copper & Brass Works to create a truly state-of-the-art facility. This moment, though, is particularly special because the first batch of sweet mash whiskey from our still, many years ago, was bourbon,” said Hard Truth master distiller and co-founder, Bryan Smith. “We’ve always been a bourbon company, we’ve just been waiting for the right moment to introduce ours to the world.”
While its bourbon was aging, Hard Truth was doing more than just waiting for it to be ready. Over its first six years, a line of successful Hard Truth craft spirits was introduced including Cinnamon Vodka, Toasted Coconut Rum, and Maple Bourbon Cream. Building on the market demand from those spirits, 2021 saw the release of Hard Truth Sweet Mash Rye, the first grain-to-glass whiskey fully produced by Hard Truth. This whiskey received numerous awards from the industry’s most respected critics, firmly establishing Hard Truth’s place in the American Whiskey community.
Today brings a new whiskey focus to Hard Truth. Their long-term lineup featuring Sweet Mash Rye and High Road Rye will now include three bourbons: Hard Truth Sweet Mash Bourbon, Wheated Bourbon, and Four Grain Bourbon. The Sweet Mash Bourbon will be released at 90-proof, and both Wheated Bourbon and Four Grain Bourbon will be 100-proof and bottled-in-bond, a legal designation with a history dating to the 1800s as the gold standard for authenticity in the whiskey world.
“Bottled-in-bond is proof to the world that we’re making everything, grain-to-glass on our property. We are a group of serious, hard-working whiskey distillers making honest whiskey here in Brown County. That’s why we always intended for bottled-in-bond to be part of our story,” said Smith.
Staying true to its Hoosier roots, the distillery’s strong support for Indiana family farmers is present in each of its whiskeys. Most of the wheat and all of the corn used to produce bourbon at Hard Truth is grown by Doug Miller, a local, fifth-generation Indiana farmer located just 60 miles from the distillery. A majority of the rye is also from Indiana, grown in the southwestern part of the state by farmer Dr. Duane Kuhlenschmidt.
Local grains are distinct in each of the three bourbons, highlighted by Smith’s balancing of grain percentage, also known as a mash bill. With 73% corn, 19% rye, and 8% malted barley, Sweet Mash Bourbon presents a familiar, though distinct, bourbon profile. Wheated Bourbon, with 69% corn, 19% wheat, and 12% malted barley in the mash bill lends a soft, subtle sweetness to the mid-palate, and a long, warm finish. Four Grain Bourbon promises a balanced flavor with layered complexity from a single mash bill consisting of all four of the primary grains used in American Whiskey — corn, rye, wheat, and barley.
After the grain is delivered to Hard Truth, it doesn’t leave the distillery until after it has been bottled in a custom sweet mash bottle. Throughout that process, nothing is left to chance — from the high-quality grain, a custom-made Vendome column still, and barrels specifically produced for each unique mash bill.
Intent on creating distinct flavors through innovative barrel processes, Smith worked closely with Andrew Wiehebrink, Director of Spirits Research at Independent Stave Company to create custom toast and char profiles designed to complement the sweet mash coming off the still. These custom Cooper Select barrels are built using 18- to 24-month dried staves, aged far beyond the typical three to six months.
The resulting marriage of whiskey and charred oak celebrates Smith’s meticulous dedication to true small batches of 30 barrels or less for each release.
“What you will find in each bottle is the result of years of curiosity, research, and good old-fashioned instincts, as well as continuous work from the Hard Truth team. We were fortunate to spend hundreds of hours with industry legends including Dr. Pat Heist and Shane Baker of Wilderness Trail, Doug Miller, and Andrew Wiehebrink. However, we weren’t held back by tradition or precedent,” says Smith. “We are pioneering our own path. We like to say that Hard Truth Sweet Mash is the future of our tradition.”
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