Thursday, September 6, 2012

Smooth Ambler Old Scout

Smooth Ambler is a distillery in West Virginia that makes a number of spirits, including a wheated bourbon called Yearling. Recently though, they have followed in the footsteps of craft distillers such as High West and Prichard's and started releasing some sourced whiskey which they call Old Scout.

Smooth Ambler was kind enough to send me samples of three of their new sourced whiskey: a six year old bourbon, a 14 year old bourbon and a seven year old rye. The bourbons are from LDI in Indiana, and while they are not disclosing the rye whiskey's source, the 95% rye mashbill also leads to the conclusion that it is from LDI.

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Bourbon, 6 yo, Batch 8, 49.5% abv ($37)

Big rye notes come at you right off the back when nosing with plenty of mint and anise. As the nose develops, it's almost absinthe like. True to the nose, the palate gives a big rye blast with spearmint notes that continue into the finish.

This is a big, minty, high rye bourbon. It's a bit one-note, but it's very drinkable and one that would make a nice regular pour.

Smooth Ambler Very Old Scout, 14 yo, Batch B2, 50% abv ($66)

According to Dave Driscoll on the K&L Spirits Blog, this one is a vatting of four LDI bourbons: 40% 14 year, 40% 15 year, 15% 17 year, and 5% 19 year.

This one has some nice wood on the nose along with light rye notes. The palate has an initially sweet kick followed by the unmistakable taste of kalamata olives, leading to a briny finish.

This one is very different from the six year old, as you would expect given the much older bourbons that it is composed of. Do you like olives? If so, give it a try or even better, pair it with a Greek salad.

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye, 7 yo, Batch 1, 49.5% abv ($40)

The nose on this gives off model glue and plastic. The palate is very LDI with mint. It starts sweet then has a bit of bitterness at the end which lasts into the finish along with some Eucalyptus notes.

Overall, I think this is the weakest of the three whiskeys (and I tend to be a rye fan). Interestingly, this one seems to have less rye character than the six year old, despite the 95% rye mashbill.

Smooth Ambler has done a good job selecting these whiskeys. If I had to recommend just one, I'd probably recommend the six year old. It may not be as complex as the 14, but it's a really nice drinking whiskey at a reasonable price.


Max said...

I tried your bottle of the 14yr at Gazebo West (thanks again btw!). It was by far my least favorite bourbon of the night because of that one huge off note. You are right on, it's olives! I can't stand olives! This makes so much sense now. Wow, that one really is not for me. I never tasted that note in bourbon before. Is there any reason to believe the bottle could be spoiled?

sku said...

Max, I don't think it's a bad bottle. Those briny notes are typical of high rye bourbons, and especially the rye character that comes out of LDI.

I actually like that note, though it's stronger in this one than in many I've had, and as you note, it may not be for everyone.

sam k said...

Sku, what's the price point on the yre?

sku said...

Sam, I haven't seen it at retail yet.

David D said...

$40 for the rye.

Adam D. said...


Thanks for saving me some $, as I was about to plunk some down for a bottle of the 14-year-old at TPS. I've also heard that they carry a 19-year-old, though I have no idea how readily available it is. If you have any thoughts on it, please let me know. And thanks for all your clear, informative reviews!

Adam D. said...

Sorry...just realized I misspoke/typed...I don't know who carries the 19-year-old; TPS does not.

sob said...

Is the green olive note like that of a lowland tequila? if so, i have a feeling i would love this bourbon.

sku said...

It's not green olive, more kalamata. I didn't take it as very tequila like, but it makes it interesting.

Florin said...

I was trying to pin down the flavor of the delicious Caoll Ila 18yo tonight, and I realized it's black olives in brine. Then I remembered that you had found olives in something - turns out that was rye, completely unrleated to Islay whisky. Or is it? Some say rye is America's response to Islay.