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Review: Smooth Ambler Old Scout Bourbon

Smooth Ambler is a relative newcomer to your liquor store shelf with a Vodka, Gin, and a White Whiskey that they make out of their Maxwelton, WV distillery. Smooth Ambler does all of their milling (grinding the grains) onsite for their products and distills these spirits from start to scratch. Proprietor, John Little, was interested in putting out a bourbon whiskey that had enough age and complexity to warrant releasing it to the public. There’s just no hurrying aged whiskey folks – many do so with results that taste as rushed as the process. John was apparently interested in avoiding that, hence the release of a sourced (purchased) bourbon with Smooth Ambler Old Scout Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

Smooth Ambler is very up front with the fact that they purchased the whiskey from another distillery. While it’s not named on the bottle, Little mentions in a recent StraightBourbon.com post that the product was indeed sourced in Indiana. With a mashbill (grain recipe) of 36% rye that matches up with one of Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana’s (LDI) stock bourbon recipes, I think it’s safe to say this is LDI juice.

Enough with the specs, let’s get into a tasting of this one……….

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Bourbon, 49.5% abv (99 Proof), $32/bottle

Color: Pale Amber

Nose: A bright mix of soft cinnamon candy, spearmint, eucalyptus, sweet almond extract, juicy fruit gum, and punchy rye and oak. Blindfolded I’d guess this was a straight rye whiskey.

Palate: The entry is caramel and honey, spiked with crisp mint, clove, and juicy rye. Corn makes a brief appearance before the mid-palate dries things up and gains some resinous grip through to the finish.

Finish: Warm and spicy with big cinnamon, splintered oak, toasty flavors, and corn.

Overall: What I like about Old Scout is I think Smooth Ambler got the details right. First off this is 5 years and 10 month old – just 2 months shy of 6 years at bottling. Certainly not “OLD”, but it has some decent age to it. Second, it’s non-chill filtered, and non-carbon filtered and bottled at a respectable 99 proof. That last part I enjoy because it gives the drinker the flexibility to add water as needed. The result is a well executed high-rye bourbon. The aromas and flavors are clearly influenced greatly by the rye, maybe a bit more than I’d ideally wish for, but it’s anchored with sweetness and balanced oak. The price point makes it a solid value as well.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.7 (Very Good/Excellent)

14 Comments

  1. John Little says:

    Jason,
    Thanks for taking the time to review Old Scout. We’ll send samples of other Smooth Ambler whiskies as they are released.

  2. John it is a very good bourbon. I’m glad you guys did a couple of things. First the age – it’s old enough that it doesn’t come across as too young. And second the proof is high enough that it offsets some of the very rye forward flavors with some of that more syrupy concentration. The proof really helps to balance this whiskey a lot more. I don’t think enough distillers are working with proof and really getting that right. It’s a big weapon.

    Very well done.

    When will you guys have some of your aged products for sale? Any plans?

  3. John Little says:

    Jason,
    We’ve had one tiny release of Yearling Bourbon. It’s a 14 month wheated bourbon in a ten gallon barrels. We’ll release some more this month. Most of our stuff is still sitting in barrels, working away.

  4. BMc says:

    Hey Jason,

    The wife and I passed on this tonight, just because we didn’t know much about it. Does it have that sort of “pickle juice” flavor of LDI whiskeys? I liked their Redemption bourbon, and am about to receive a 5 year Willett rye in the mail, so I’m certainly open to LDI, but I’d like to get some variation from their base flavors.

  5. Severin says:

    Old Scout is an incredible value. Jason, great review. I actually had a chance to taste the wheated Yearling at an event John hosted in NYC and it has a ton of character and very smooth for 14 months. I hope to see more Smooth Ambler reviews in the future!

  6. Severin, it is very good stuff indeed. Enjoyed it immensely.

  7. Bob Baronner says:

    Jason, my wife picked up a bottle in Shepherdstown mainly because it was made in WV and a native has to try it. I ran out of Jack several weeks ago and tried the Old Scout on the rocks with a splash of water. I was pleasantly surprised and will be buying another bottle soon!

  8. Ford says:

    Picked up the last bottle of 14 Year Very Old Scout from K & L…it’s fantastic!

  9. Glad you liked it Ford!

  10. Adam Hossman says:

    I am currently working on my second bottle of the “White Whiskey”, and I have to say it is amazing. This is better than all of the premium un-aged whiskeys, and so called “moonshines”, that are flooding the market. This White Whiskey is certainly a “Sophisticated Moonshine”, it is as smooth as many aged offerings from other distilleries. Well done, and please keep that coming. The 100 proof is perfect drinking whiskey, (notice I did NOT say sipping…lol), it is wonderful straight, and is accompanied well by a nice cold lager. Great job!
    Adam from Ohio

  11. Andrew says:

    Looking at getting a nice bourbon as groomsmen gifts. Fiancee and I are getting married on the West Coast, so I figured something more local (I live in MD) would be nice, and I was looking at WV bourbons (we love to hike there). I see a lot of recommendations for Smooth Ambler, and was wondering what your thoughts on this idea would be? I’ve seen on the website that there are other Smooth Ambler bourbons. I guess I need to just go to the distillery one day.

  12. Robert Spillman says:

    I wasn’t aware that bourbon existed outside of Kentucky. I was at the Tony Boombozz Taphouse here in Louisville and gave it a try. It was absolutely perfect. Very smooth and wonderful taste. I hope to see this around more

  13. Ethan Smith says:

    I bought a bottle of the 7/99 bourbon at the state store this evening for $35. Got it home and had a pour. This stuff is great! I’ll be on the constant lookout for it now!

  14. Jean says:

    I just purchased this as gift for somebody who generally drinks Widow Jane. Hope the recommendations were well found; I really wish they’d revisit the label design though.

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