Tommy Brunett will be hosting a bourbon dinner at Ocean.

Tommy Brunett will be hosting a bourbon dinner at Ocean.


The Casino File: Rocker-turned-distiller hosts bourbon dinner at AC’s Ocean; Resorts announces pool upgrade

Guitar-slinger Tommy Brunett has carved out a successful niche with his small-batch whiskey line, Iron Smoke.

Inspiration can strike anytime, anywhere. Just ask Tommy Brunett, who had his flash in his home on what was an otherwise typical day.

“There I was [in 2011], with two kids in diapers, doing my chores, smoking ribs and drinking whiskey…getting my swerve on, you know, and I had that ‘Eureka!’ moment. I was like, ‘Did anybody ever put two great American pastimes together--bourbon making and great American barbecue?’” recalled Brunett during a recent phone call in advance of the Iron Smoke Whiskey Takeover dinner scheduled for March 21 at Villain & Saint inside Ocean Casino-Resort.

As it turned out, he continued, he discovered two: Corsair and Balcones. But that didn’t discourage him; he saw room for yet another line of smoke-distilled bourbon, and thus was born his Iron Smoke imprint.

“Their smoking process was really heavy,” he said of the two existing brands. “So I came up with a recipe that was very light, like a good rib. You can over-smoke meats too, you know?

“So we came out with a four-grain bourbon mash, mostly corn, obviously, because [bourbon’s] gotta be 50 percent or more corn, and a really good deal of wheat, because I like the sweetness and smoothness that wheat pulls onto the corn. And wheat takes on the smoke better. So it's a heavily wheated bourbon, but there's also barley and rye.”

Distilled in Fairport, N.Y. near Brunett’s hometown of Rochester, Iron Smoke proved to be an immediate hit. “Our distributor said, ‘It's gonna take you a year to sell your 300 cases,’ he remembered. “And we sold them in a week-and-a-half!”

Currently, Iron Smoke is available in 11 states including New Jersey, New York and Florida. It’s been highly acclaimed by spirits experts: The well-respected liquor maven Jim Murray gave it a 95.5 rating—higher than those he bestowed upon such lauded names as Pappy Van Winkle, Basil Hayden’s and Buffalo Trace.

“Booze baron” (he also has a line of flavored whiskeys—including Apple Pie and Maple Bacon—marketed under the “Rattlesnake Rosie’s” banner) is but the latest title Brunett has claimed. Before he went into the whiskey business, he was an in-demand marketing guru whose clients included such blue-chippers as Virgin, Universal Studios, DreamWorks and Disney.

And he has been a professional musician for more than 30 years: In the late-1980s and early-‘90s, he played guitar with New Wavers Modern English (“I Will Melt with You”). Today, he regularly tours with his Tommy Brunett Band, which has opened for headliners including Ted Nugent, ZZ Top and Cracker. As such, the Ocean event-- featuring an appetizer-laden cocktail hour and four-course meal (the entrée offerings are seared filet mignon and smoked salmon)-- will include musical selections and anecdotes from the host.

“I bring my guitar along, and I kind of tell the story of how I got my lucky break [with Modern English] and how that changed my life,” he said.

“It's gonna be a celebration of music, life, rock & roll, everything. And we're gonna cover a lot and it's gonna be a lot of fun.”

Resorts pool plans

Resorts Casino Hotel has commenced work on a major upgrade to its pool complex.

According to a press release, the project will “transform the space into a beautifully re-imagined year-round amenity.” The renovations include the installation of five retractable glass roof panels and four sets of sliding patio doors; new chaise lounges, tables and umbrellas; a state-of-the-art sound system; televisions and a full bar.

There will also be lounge areas designed to promote relaxation, and amenities for private parties and events.

The facility is expected to open in late June.

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