Frey Ranch Smoked American Single Malt Review [In Depth]

Frey Ranch Smoked American Single Malt

Alex author
Founder, writer
Frey Ranch Smoked American Single Malt header

Frey Ranch Smoked American Single Malt Details

Distillery: Frey Ranch

Type & Region: Nevada, Single Malt, USA

Alcohol: 55%

Composition: 100% malted barley

Aged: 6 years 8 months

Color: 1.5/2.0 on the color scale (auburn, polished mahogany)

Price: $59 (375ml)

From the media release

At 110 proof and aged for six years and seven months, Frey Ranch American Single Malt Smoked was produced using 100 percent of the slow-grown barley that is grown, harvested – and now smoked – and then milled and distilled –– on the Frey Ranch farm. Not only did Co-Founder and Whiskey Farmer Colby Frey grow 100 percent of the barley used to create the mashbill, but he fashioned the smoker himself. It’s strange that they don’t have anything about it on their website anymore. They used to because it shows up on Google search, but clicking it leads to a dead page on the Frey Ranch website.

Frey Ranch Smoked American Single Malt overview

Peated Scotch has been very popular for decades, and distilleries such as Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg (to name a few) have equally captivated and disgusted whiskey drinkers with those unique smoky, earthy, ocean-y, and fungal traits. But here’s the thing, peat and smoke are not unique to Scotch, they can be used for really any spirit, including mezcal and all sorts of non-Scotch whiskeys.
That’s where Frey Ranch, the farm and distillery in Nevada, comes in. They’ve been making whiskey for years, primary bourbon and rye. Since they grow all their own grains and use barley in their bourbon, they also in fact have the ability to create single malt whiskey if they so choose…and they did, producing and releasing a fairly limited-run 6 year and 7 month old Smoked American Single Malt whiskey.
While Frey Ranch isn’t necessarily the first to produce a smoked American single malt, they have taken some creative liberties to offer something entirely their own.
  • Use barley from their farm
  • Smoke their grain using a smoker built by the founder, reconstituted from an old grain silo and a fireplace
  • Use peat made from decomposed plant matter from their farm
So…Frey Ranch uses their grain, their peat, and their smoker. The only thing they didn’t do was use barrels made from trees grown on their land (probably). Even with that minor oversight, Frey Ranch Smoked Single Malt is legitimately a single estate-made single malt whiskey in every sense of the phrase.
It doesn’t really get more homemade than this. Even with Islay Scotch, most of the peat and barley usually comes from somewhere besides Islay, although there are some exceptions. BUT, I don’t think anyone has built their own smoker for this. That’s true commitment to the game.
None of that really matters if the outcome is subpar, so let’s find out if all that hard work has paid off in this Frey Ranch Smoked American Single Malt review. Thank you to Frey Ranch for providing this bottle. All opinions are still my own.
None of that really matters if the outcome is subpar, so let’s find out if all that hard work has paid off in this Frey Ranch Smoked American Single Malt review.
Thank you to Frey Ranch for providing this bottle. All opinions are still my own.
Frey Ranch Smoked American Single Malt side-2
Frey Ranch Smoked Single Malt back

As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses for everything (they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass Set of 6, Set of 4Set of 2, or just one. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

Frey Ranch Smoked American Single Malt smell

Mezcal…Frey Ranch Smoked Single Malt smells so much like mezcal. What I mean is that there’s a heavy fungal, charred greens (some say smoky bandaids), and smoky caramel sweetness, red apple, dried mushrooms, burnt greens, rubber, roasted oak, and a little apricot. The smoke is very front and center, although for better or worse it seems to cover up the nuance.
The smoke is a hammer, so you’ll take it or leave it with no in between. I personally like this type of whiskey / mezcal, but it’s likely polarizing for many. If you like Laphroaig or Mezcal, then you’ll love it. If you don’t, you’ll utterly think this is foul.
After swirling and 15 minutes of rest, I smell smoky and fungal caramel, vanilla, apple, caked-on salt, roasted oak, dried apricot, caramel nougat, strawberry, and a little bit of buttercream towards the back. There’s more low-end sweetness, vanilla, and fruitiness that add a touch more balance to all that powerful smoke.
At this point, I think that my nose has adjusted to some of the smoke so it’s not as intensely fungal, earthy, and burnt as before.
Frey Ranch Smoked American Single Malt Grains Single Malt is a full, rich, and heavily smoky whiskey with budding nuance after swirling. I just wish that more could cut through the thick layers of smoke to add more personality.
Frey Ranch Smoked Single Malt front

Frey Ranch Smoked American Single Malt taste and aftertaste

The flavors have a lot of smoky, fungal, vegetal, and earthy caramel, followed by lighter dried apple, roasted oak, cinnamon, roasted grain, vanilla, and a hint of dark chocolate, vanilla, and apricot. There’s a bit of heat, but still controlled for 55% ABV.
Frey Ranch Smoked American Single Malt is a dark, dense, and rich whiskey that goes very heavy on the smoky character: smoke, ash, salted dried mushrooms, and roasted agave. The grains probably went through an intense process because oh man it’s smoky.
While there are a lot of rich flavors, it doesn’t have so much nuance or pop. The smokiness is first, second, and third. To compare to a well-known peated Scotch, Laphroaig cask strength has more citrusy pop that cuts through the smoke. With Frey Ranch’s version, nothing really cuts through the smoke to fully elevate the experience. The smoke doesn’t necessarily overpower, but I don’t think it lets the full complexity shine, although it still is very tasty.
With “chewing”, I get intensely smoky caramel, dried apple, dried mushrooms, smoke, salt, burnt bits, vanilla, roasted oak, cinnamon, caraway seed, and a little orange peel and strawberry. “Chewing” pulls out a bigger burst of sweetness and fruitiness that reveals more of the character that’s often covered by the smoke. The heat is surprisingly mellow. It’s not to say that it’s docile, but it’s not a raging lunatic either.
The finish leaves smoke, ash, charred vegetables, salt, dried mushrooms, honey, and roasted oak. As the smoke fades, it leaves a pleasant and gentle fruitiness within the smoke as well as a light stickiness. After “chewing”, there’s smoky, earthy, and vegetal caramel, vanilla, dried apricot, and roasted oak with lingering sweet smoke and overall “burnt-ness”. I dig it.
Frey Ranch Smoked American Single Malt is densely flavorful and viscous, and for the most part I think that it holds up incredibly well to the likes of Laphroaig 10 Year Cask Strength, but with a twist. I like this a lot.
That said, I wish that there were more layers of fruit and something that really popped besides all that smoke, but this is an incredible first go at it.
Frey Ranch Smoked Single Malt side-1
I’ve unfortunately lost some Glencairn’s while in transit, and that made me very sad. So, I wised up and bought this Glencairn Travel Case that comes also comes with 2 glasses so I don’t need to worry so much about them breaking. I think it’s great, and I think you’ll love it too. Seriously, if you already have glasses, protect them.

Frey Ranch Smoked American Single Malt Rating

Top Shelf
Frey Ranch Smoked American Single Malt is the first peated / smoked American single malt that I’ve ever had, and it’s a wonderful one for my introduction. It’s rich, dense, and uniquely smoky, so they delivered on their promise. If this is your thing, it’s a lot of fun to smell and taste.
The peat they use, coming from their farm, is crazy stuff, infusing even more Laphroaig character than even Laphroaig does. As I mentioned before, this is like the earthy, fungal barbeque-y, and salty Laphroaig plus the charred / burnt vegetal Mezcal infused into an American single malt. Proceed at your own risk, and potentially be rewarded.
I’m a bit of a peat head so I personally feel right at home with this, and I’m a fan. Just like with other smoked spirits, I wouldn’t necessarily want this all the time, but it’s a compelling option for when you want something a bit more smoky and intense.
There’s room for improvement, in my opinion at least. I think it needs more pop to cut through the smoke, be it something bright and vibrant like citrus / tropical something, or a darker fruit. As-is, the smoke is just a bit too heavy handed given the underlying malt whiskey, which covers up some of the nuance and complexity that’s likely there.
I hope that Frey Ranch has the stock to continue aging the whiskey to unlock more pop and zing. The amazing single malt Scotches that I’ve had also have that additional pop and zip. I don’t know how Frey Ranch could add that, but that’s the one thing I’m still craving after having this.
If you enjoy peated Scotch or Mezcal, then I highly recommend that you try this if you can. On the other hand, if those things sound awful to you, then this will be equally as foul and unpleasant.
I for one am very happy with the result, so great job Frey Ranch. Please keep it coming. Hopefully another 1-2 years of oak aging will help it reach its full potential and this is really just the start of something amazing.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)