Hard Truth Distilling Co. - Releasing their first three bourbons, A Straight Bourbon and Two Bottled-in-Bond Bourbons

If there is anything we’ve learned after covering the distilled spirits industry for all these many years, it’s that distillers have the patience of Job. Distillers and their investors must have vision, money, and patience. That’s just the hard truth especially for rye and bourbon whiskey makers.

Hard Truth Distilling Co. in Nashville, Indiana, story began in 2009 when they opened their first brewpub. They started small with an 800 square foot restaurant; brewing Sunday night through early Wednesday on a half barrel system and then they would open their brewpub up for customers Wednesday through Sunday. By Sunday night, all their beer was gone. They knew they were on to something. Over the years they expanded the restaurant and added a second location. They also expanded their brewing operations and opened Quaff On! Brewing Co., a full-time brewery, to serve not just in their own restaurants but to serve on thousands of taps around the state.

In 2015 Indiana laws changed which allowed them to own a distillery. They soon cut out a little bit of space on the second floor of their restaurant and using a repurposed 4-bbl brew system began distilling. Starting out small they would distill gin, vodka, rum, and agave spirits. They had a built-in audience in their restaurants to serve and test their spirits. They soon learned they were on to something and decided they would take the plunge and expand.

In 2017 they purchased 325 acres on the edge of Nashville (Indiana, not Tennessee) and began building their new distillery from the ground up. In the fall of 2018, they began distilling operations on their state-of-the-art Vendome Copper & Brass Works column stills and pot stills. Based on their training from the scientists at Wilderness Trail Distillery, Hard Truth Distilling started making a sweet mash bourbon and rye whiskey.

Hard Truth Distilling Co. Founder and Partner Jeff McCabe talks about the moment of truth and the release of their first grain-to-glass bourbons.

Hard Truth Distilling Co. Partner and Master Distiller Bryan Smith takes priding in releasing not just one but three bourbons.


What is Sweet Mash?

Every batch of Hard Truth Sweet Mash Whiskey begins with entirely fresh ingredients, known as the sweet mash process. Where sour mash reuses a portion of each previous batch, it also mutes some of the flavor. By using sweet mash, we’re able to highlight the complexity and pleasant flavors from our grains and reach the peak flavor in our new, charred American oak barrels.

We’ve Always Been a Bourbon Company “We were just waiting…”

“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 Distilling Partner and Master Distiller 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.

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Introducing Not Just One but Three 5-Year-Old Bourbons

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 is being 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 1897 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.


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What’s the Mashbill? Indiana Forward Grains

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 still, and barrels specifically produced for each unique mash bill.

Mash Bill
Sweet Mash Bourbon
73% Corn, 19% Rye, 8% Malted Barley
Sweet Mash Wheated Bourbon
69% Corn, 19% Wheat, 12% Malted Barley
Sweet Mash Four Grain Bourbon
78% Corn, 9% Rye, 9% Wheat, 4% Malted Barley

Custom Made Whiskey Barrels

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 Distillery, 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.”

Hard Truth Distilling Co.’s Sweet Mash Bourbons are available for purchase at its distillery beginning Saturday, February 24, and in select markets beginning March 1. Suggested retail pricing for Hard Truth’s Sweet Mash Bourbon at 90 proof (45% ABV) 750mL bottle is $44.99, Wheated Bourbon Bottled-in-Bond 100 proof (50% ABV) 750mL bottle is $54.99 and Four Grain Bourbon Bottled-in-Bond 100 proof (50% ABV) 750mL bottle is $59.99.

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