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Hammer Down Bourbon To Help Raise Funds For Hospitality Industry

The teamwork of a chef and a distillery led to Hammer Down, an original bourbon designed to raise funds for the nonprofit organization Southern Smoke and its ongoing support of the hospitality industry.

James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd, along with 8th Wonder Brewery & Distillery, blended, proofed, and bottled the bourbon in Houston at 8th Wonder Distillery.

And now, bars and restaurants can order Hammer Down through Spec’s and other class B permit holders in Texas, while the general public can purchase bottles at local retailers and independent liquor stores.

Hammer Down Bourbon
Hammer Down Bourbon (image via 8th Wonder Brewery & Distillery)

Every drink counts in this fund raiser, as $2 from each bottle sold will go to Southern Smoke, the crisis relief organization founded to serve and support people in the food and beverage industry.

Put together over a six-month period in 2021, Hammer Down is a blended bourbon featuring notes of caramel, sweet vanilla, honey, and toasted butterscotch, with a hint of corn flakes.

Aaron Corsi is brewmaster, distiller and 8th Wonder co-founder, and he said he gathered dozens of barrel samples to begin the blending and proofing process of Hammer Down.

“We would sample until our palates couldn’t take any more, then schedule another sampling day,” Corsi said in a prepared statement. “This all happened over the course of a couple of months and what seemed like hundreds of variations until we came up with this fantastic whiskey. I remember the first high ball I made with what became the final blend, and I remember thinking, ‘I’m probably going to end up drinking this until the end of my days.’”

The tasting committee included Corsi; Chris Shepherd, James Beard Award-winning chef and Southern Smoke Founding Director and Honorary Chairman; Westin Galleymore, Underbelly Director of Bars; Victoria Dearmond, Underbelly Pastry Director; Ryan Soroka, 8th Wonder Co-founder and President; Sean Rosenbaum, 8th Wonder Partner; and other members of Shepherd’s Underbelly Hospitality and Southern Smoke teams.

Shepherd, chef and Southern Smoke founding director, said, “This was absolutely one of the most fun things I’ve gotten to do … discussing the type of bourbon we wanted, which was something easy to drink that would still hold up in a cocktail, and then tasting the different blending options that Aaron made for us.”

He said that by ordering or buying Hammer Down, it helps maintain the support system and safety net that Southern Smoke provides nationwide.

“We hope this bourbon can be a long-term, sustainable revenue source for Southern Smoke to ensure we can continue to take care of our own, anyone in the food and beverage industry around the country who is in crisis. That’s what we’re here for,” Shepherd added.

For more information on the Southern Smoke nonprofit, check out And to find out more about 8th Wonder, visit

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