It all began in Western Wyoming in 1860. Great-grandfather Clyde was born and before he was 15 he had a reputation as one of the best ranch hands in the state. As the story goes, he was an extremely bright and innovative young man, and by the time he was 18 he had branched out into the liquor making business, better known as "runnin' shine". He excelled at everything he undertook, and whiskey making became his specialty. He set up his stills in the hills under tree cover to avoid detection, and at night would move the liquor down to the edge of the ranch property when he was ready to distribute it. He was on the way down to deliver a batch of whiskey when a huge storm came out of nowhere. Clyde was forced to drop the jugs under a large old oak tree just on the edge of the ranch property, and run for cover. He had just made it to the barn when a giant lightning bolt hit the old oak tree, splitting it square down the middle. When daylight came, he saw the blackened split oak tree, still smoking from the fire, and all of his whiskey jugs and contents ruined.
He had another large batch ready to go, but he had no more jugs, and no way of purchasing anything to hold his whiskey. He looked at the oak tree, with all the leaves burned off, and the gaping split that ran from the top of the 50 foot tree to about 5 feet from its base. He had an idea. He called on the other young ranch hands, and they began chopping off all of the burned branches. One of the largest limbs had split in such a way that it made a natural charred barrel. They rolled it up into the mountains to his still, and they transferred all of the whiskey into the charred oak tree barrel. They had to let it sit in the barrel, as it was securely hidden, and returned to their work on the ranch.
The late 1800's had its share of problems in the West, and the ranch owner abruptly decided to move his ranch to another part of the state. Clyde had to leave his renowned whiskey in the mountains, sealed in the charred oak barrel. It was 3 years before he could return to the ranch where he had left his whiskey. Not knowing if the oak barrel was still there, he walked way up into the mountains, and everything was just where he had left it. Clyde removed the sealed oak lid, and tasted it. He couldn’t believe it was so smooth and better than anything he had ever produced before. He realized that quite by mistake, he had the best whiskey in the West. He knew that he had to rethink his whiskey business. He had oak barrels to make and whiskey to brew, but before he started on his new venture, he wrote down his barrel aged whiskey recipe, and he gave it to his son, my grandfather, who in turn gave it to my father. That very recipe and the story of Great-grandfather Clyde's whiskey making has been handed down, and put away for many, many years... until now. Over one hundred years later it is finally being made again, given a name, and available for everybody to enjoy.
Welcome to the very appropriately named Charred Oak
We at Charred Oak Spirits would like to thank Mr. Greg Wood for the following poem.
We met Greg at the Atlanta Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival. He loved our bourbon so much he sent this in.
Why Bourbon Shouldn’t Burn
Way out in Wyoming’s hills - about 1879,
once a ranch-hand Clyde, set his head to brewing ‘shine.
On cattle land which spread as far, as any eye could see -
lit his still to working, there beneath a giant oak tree.
Then his business boomed, and the sales were so fine -
as he purveyed good whiskey, all across the line.
But one stormy night, lightening rained down -
spilt and burned that mighty tree, right into the ground!
Now there was spared liquor, ready for the sell -
but the empty jugs, were just burned-up all-to-hell!
Any vessels fit for storage, the flames already’d ruined -
chopped a natural barrel, found deep within the burned.
Then he filled it and he hid it, putting done to fears -
ranching then kept Clyde away, for almost three full years.
So high then was his dread, when he finally did return -
for was the bourbon still as good, or had it sadly turned?
Upon breaking the seal open, he was quiet pleased to learn,
aging had only smoothed it - as there simply was no burn!
Since that old charred oak barrel, had given it its taste -
this new brew became renowned – all throughout the West.
Understanding that an accident, was how his business grew,
Clyde wrote down the recipe – making sure his descendants knew.
So passed through four generations, it now comes into your hand,
Charred Oak Bourbon Whiskey – the best one in the land!
Greg Wood 03 / 2013