Disclaimer: A sample of Smooth Ambler Old Scout Straight Bourbon Whiskey was provided by Smooth Ambler Spirits for this review. I appreciate their willingness to allow Bourbon & Banter to review the whiskey with no strings attached. Thank you.
I have to admit that I’m very wary of the “craft” spirits movement, especially when that really just involves companies slapping overpriced label art on a bottle of 4-6 year old MGP juice and calling it their own. But Smooth Ambler Spirits strikes a unique balance between the world of Non-Distiller Producers and actual Craft Distillers, by not only blending some kickass MGP barrels for their Old Scout brand, but also dedicating time, energy, and funds into crafting a grain-to-glass spirit in the heart of West Virginia. Their own distillate is coming of age this month (!!!!) and I cannot wait to taste it. But for now, I will have to satisfy myself with this fantastic bottle of Old Scout 7 year. Here’s what SAS says about the bottle:
7 plus year old barrels with a high rye content of 36%, this fine whiskey has exceptional taste and smoothness. Non chill filtered, non carbon filtered. A robust 99 proof, it’s strong, but deliciously drinkable like all of Smooth Ambler’s offerings. Bold, sweet-spicy flavors with subtle apple, cherry and tobacco aroma.
Well, no time like the present. Let’s dive right in!
Smooth Ambler Old Scout Bourbon Review
Age: 7 years
How I Drank It: Neat, in Glencairn whiskey glass.
My Nose Noticed:* Cherry | Cinnamon | Black pepper | Toasted oak
First Sip: Almond | Black pepper | Butterscotch
The Burn:** The burn begins with some cloying floral notes and orange before descending into a serenade of black pepper that stays with you for ages. This bourbon doesn’t scream in your face that it is 99 proof, but the high-rye mash bill does show itself in the finish. With a splash of water that black pepper is tamed a bit, exposing more ripe fruit and brown sugar.
Neat, Splash or Rocks: This bourbon is equally good neat or with a splash—if you are not personally inclined towards peppery bourbon, a splash will bring out luscious fruit. But if you stay neat, you get a warm array of baking spices. Furthermore, SAOS would make a fantastic Old Fashioned, since it already possesses spice and orange characteristics which are front and center in that classic cocktail. Really, there is no wrong way to enjoy SAOS!
Share With: Good friends—the last time I crashed on my friends’ couch in Louisville, I brought them a bottle of this and they hardly noticed me all weekend! In all sincerity, this is a fantastic option for gift-giving (to yourself or others) since it has a well-rounded flavor that many people can appreciate, and has the personal touch of a craft company dedicated to distilling and blending damn fine bourbon and rye.
Worth The Price: Depending on the store, this bottle hovers around $32-37, and might even be underpriced at that range. Some might argue that since it is sourced from MGP, the bottle isn’t unique, but I can tell you that the folks at Smooth Ambler have some fantastic palates. I’ll pick up any bottle of theirs, from their own distillate or sourced, just because I know how well they pick and blend barrels. Trust me on this, don’t pass up on a bottle of Smooth Ambler!
Bottle, Bar or Bust: Bottle all the way. Every penny goes to support the distillery and community in Maxwelton, WV, and their own distillate has already turned some heads. Keep an eye on Smooth Ambler; they are really making a name for themselves as craft distillers and producers.
*I like to let my whiskey sit in the glass for at least 5 minutes before I start to smell it or have a drink. I personally find that it’s better to let some of the alcohol waft off before diving in. If I’m drinking bourbon on the rocks I skip the waiting and dive in both feet first. In this case thought, the whiskey really required more like 20 minutes to balance out.
**Some of you refer to this as the “finish” but let’s be honest. Don’t we all just want to know if it burns good?