HOTEL TANGO Bourbon Ready-to-Drink and 'Shmallow Flavored Bourbon Reviews & Tasting Notes


Today’s adventure begins in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Travis Barnes served three combat tours as a US Marine and learned plenty about doing things the right way. During his third tour, he was injured by an IED, causing a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. He was granted an honorable discharge, and upon his return to civilian life, he enrolled in law school.


Travis married in 2012 and, about that time, started making whiskey. He, his wife Hilary, and some friends buckled down and founded HOTEL TANGO in 2014. If that seems like an unusual name for a whiskey, it is based on the NATO phonetic alphabet:  “Hotel” for Hilary and “Tango” for Travis. They refer to HOTEL TANGO as Spirits Distilled With Discipline.   


Located in Indianapolis, HOTEL TANGO produces Bourbon, Rye, vodka, gin, rum, and liqueurs. We’ll explore two of them: Bourbon Ready-to-Drink and ‘Shmallow Bourbon.


A couple with whom Mrs. Whiskeyfellow and I are friends gifted me both of these bottles. There was no need to write a review. Still, if you’ve followed me long enough, you know I review everything and anything whiskey-related. Let’s #DrinkCurious and learn more about these.


Bourbon Ready-to-Drink



This Bourbon is made from a mash of 67.5% corn, 15% rye, 12.5% wheat, and 5% malted barley and was distilled at Middle West Spirits in Columbus, Ohio. For the record, that’s a respected distillery. It is packaged in a rectangular 750ml bottle at 45% ABV (90°), and I’ve seen it in many states around the country for about $30.00. Its packaging is purposefully generic, like what you’d find with many military goods. It carries a two-year age statement.


HOTEL TANGO says it is best served in a cocktail. While that may be the case, everything I review is tasted neat.


Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon looked like yellow gold. A thick rim formed, releasing watery tears that raced back into the pool.


Nose: Corn and toasted oak were easily discerned during the sniffing experience. There was a mild ethanol punch; at this proof, that indicates a younger Bourbon. I could pick out a hint of caramel, but it took effort. When I pulled the aroma into my mouth, I found the caramel more evident. There was also a mild oak spiciness.  


Palate: HOTEL TANGO’s texture was medium-weighted and slid across my tongue. I tasted vanilla and caramel on the front of my palate. The middle offered toffee, black pepper, and orange zest. Flavors of oak, rye, and clove were on the back.


Finish: Spices burst on the scene like the Kool-Aid™ Man with rye and oak tannins. Those were quickly overtaken by clove. It was a long finish, one that stuck around and, frankly, shocked me at such a low proof.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I can appreciate why HOTEL TANGO suggests this is best in a cocktail because it certainly won’t get lost in one. But it also stands on its own just fine. Yes, it is young, but you get a decent bang for the buck at this price. I don’t think this will be everyone’s cup of tea, so it takes my Bar rating.




‘Shmallow Flavored Bourbon



‘Shmallow is a toasted marshmallow-flavored Bourbon. It is presumably the same mashbill as its signature whiskey with added natural and artificial flavoring. It comes in the same-shaped bottle as the Bourbon and is packaged at 30% ABV (60°). It can be procured for about $25.00.


If you geek out on TTB standards, you’ll notice something that disqualifies ‘Shmallow as a flavored whiskey. Here’s the rule:


Whisky flavored with natural flavoring materials, with or without the addition of sugar, bottled at not less than 30% alcohol by volume (60 proof).

The name of the predominant flavor shall appear as part of the class and type designation, e.g., “Cherry Flavored Whisky.”

Wine may be added, but if the addition exceeds 2½% by volume of the finished product, the classes and/or types and percentages (by volume) of wine must be stated as part of the class and type designation.


If you’re looking at this and wondering why ‘Shmallow doesn’t fit the bill, check out the first six words. The flavoring must be natural. ‘Shmallow has that but also contains artificial flavoring.


Anyway, enough legalities…


Appearance: Whereas the Bourbon was yellow gold, ‘Shmallow was yellow, almost like a Chardonnay. I placed them side by side to be sure. The massive rim dropped a curtain of watery legs.


Nose: If you’ve been camping and roasted your marshmallows, you’ve undoubtedly burnt your fair share of them. It smelled exactly like that. I happen to love my marshmallows burned. Inhaling the vapor through my lips gave me the marshmallow flavor without the charred quality.


Palate: Its texture was fragile, but it carried quite the wallop of charred marshmallows. I could taste the wood stick I would have used to hold the marshmallow in the fire.


Finish: The finish was heavy on vanilla and marshmallow fluff. The burnt quality was notably absent. Duration-wise, it was short-to-medium.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I’ve had marshmallow-flavored liqueurs before. They were always too sweet. Adding the char made ‘Shmallow decidedly different and worthy of consideration. My guess is that ‘Shmallow will enjoy only a small demographic. I liked it, but it is also one of those kitschy things that I’d have a tough time finding an occasion to sip (like when camping, and I don’t want an actual marshmallow). For the broader market, ‘Shmallow earns my Bar rating. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you to do so responsibly.



  1. I have enjoyed both of these. I really enjoy the shmallow added into my hot chocolate.


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