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Pour the Win

OilFire Rye Whiskey, behind some impressive accolades since hitting people’s palates in 2017, is making a strong bid to wrest the long-held crown from Kentucky and Tennessee.

Michele Chiappetta
Marc Rains
April 28, 2019

Perhaps you’ve already heard of Tulsa’s local brand, OilFire Rye Whiskey — tabbed as America’s first handcrafted seductive spirit. If you haven’t tried it yet, consider this your invitation to take the plunge and get a taste of what is some of the most delicious rye whiskey you’re going to come across.

Ken Williams, the founder, chairman and CEO of OilFire, says that the journey to creating this unique and tasty rye whiskey has had many twists and turns. It starts, not surprisingly, with a family legend rooted in oil.

In the early 1900s, Oklahoma and neighboring Texas were overrun by people taking part in the oil boom. One day, an independent wildcatter, an ancestor of Williams, struck a gusher oil well. Celebrations began, and so did months of working the oil well. Then tragedy struck. Lightning hit the well, leading to a significant fire. The oil fire was eventually put out by local volunteers. To thank them, the wildcatter mixed a batch of rye whiskey with a batch of his family’s secret liqueur recipe and served it up. It was the talk of the town.

Over the years, though, the recipe got lost and had to be recreated. That’s where Williams, a determined person, to say the least, led the charge, alongside his wife, Amber, acting president of OilFire, and his family members, all of whom participate in the company. A certified public accountant and investment banker, Williams started the process of creating his private label of whiskey, something extraordinary that he could give to his clients, family, and friends.  

But realizing the vision for OilFire couldn’t happen overnight. Williams says he worked for years with chemists to recreate the family’s secret liqueur recipe. The result, OilFire, is a whiskey that pleases just about any palate — something that gives it a flavor unlike anything else on the market.

Amber and Ken Williams (Photo: Marc Rains)
Amber and Ken Williams (Photo: Marc Rains)

“OilFire is a traditional rye whiskey with a subtle yet succulent blend of natural ingredients to ensure we provide the rich premium flavor you deserve to both celebrate and passionately appreciate its taste,” says Williams.

Made of 95 percent rye whiskey and 5 percent liqueur, OilFire’s superpower is its secret ingredient — the liqueur that gives OilFire its unique taste, which conforms to each taster’s palate. OilFire comes across with a different taste profile depending on who’s drinking it.

“It allows the person who drinks OilFire to taste whatever their palate prefers,” Williams explains. “If you’re into vanilla, you’re going to taste vanilla. You’re going to find people tasting chocolate, almond, pecan, cinnamon toasted crunch, and even hazelnut. It essentially conforms to your palate. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

“This is an undeniable fact which can only be affirmed by taste. Simply put, OilFire tastes great and is appreciated by both women and men alike. Once somebody tastes it, we have a client for life.”

OilFire officially launched in September 2017 and made its debut at the Chili Bowl. But the launch meant another learning curve for Williams and his team. “We were going around promoting it and thinking we had it perfected, but that whole process of getting it to market took another year,” he says.

Since then, OilFire has passionately connected to the Tulsa community. The company has sponsored many Tulsa area events and groups, including the Chili Bowl, Oktoberfest, the Roughnecks, and more. These sponsorships have helped OilFire to get a foothold in the local market. “It has helped to grow the brand,” Williams says. With the growth of 300 percent per year and outselling its competitors by as much as eight times over at these events, it’s clear people are fans of OilFire’s taste.

This year, OilFire Rye Whiskey will also be at Mayfest — where they’ll sponsor the main stage events at Guthrie Green. It’s a first for both the brand and the festival. “We’re the first spirit ever served at Mayfest in its rich history of 47 years,” says Williams.

Attendees at Mayfest can expect to see an OilFire booth with plenty of merchandise for purchase, recipes printed for people to take with them, and of course — samples to taste. “People can try it served different ways,” says Williams. “It’s a large test market. We feel that’s the best way to jump into the community.”

Another way that OilFire connects to the Tulsa community is through charitable efforts. Last Christmas, for example, the brand paid $40,000 in layaways for customers at Walmart.

For its next step toward growth, OilFire is looking to bring in influencers, financial backers and other experts to help build the brand from a local favorite to a global powerhouse. “We’re currently looking for experts in the alcohol business,” he says.

But, of course, it all comes back to the taste of the whiskey. And that’s where OilFire can’t be beaten. Perfect for any event, from formal black-tie events to relaxed, informal gatherings, OilFire Rye Whiskey won’t let you down.

“It’s not just a drink,” says William’s wife, Amber. “It’s an experience passionately enjoyed by both men and women alike.”  

Oilfire Rye Whiskey and Liqueur
4609 E. 91st St. | Tulsa