Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year
Appalachia has always been known for whiskey. As I wrote about in "The Very Abridged History of Bourbon Whisk(e)y," Scots-Irish farmers west of the mountains were producing corn and rye whiskey in Appalachia before America was an independent nation. Bourbon was born on the frontier, and while Kentucky produces 95% of the world's bourbon, there is a small distillery in Maxwelton, West Virginia living up to the history of the nation's earliest distillers.
Smooth Ambler is a small batch "craft" distillery located in the rural Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia. The two gentlemen that founded the operation, TAG Galyean and John Little, were inspired by a January 2008 article in TIME magazine about craft distilling and began working out of a garage.
Since 2009, Smooth Ambler has operated as both a Non-Distiller Producer and an actual distiller of whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, and rye. The distillery opened with the intent of creating vodka and gin while waiting for its bourbon to age. However, plans changed, and Smooth Ambler began sourcing high-rye (36% rye) stock from MGP in Lawrenceburg, Indiana in order to get bourbon to market immediately. Those sourced bourbons are known as "Old Scout" Straight Bourbon Whiskey, reflecting the fact that TAG and John "scouted out" the base product. We love the name.
Smooth Ambler "Old Scout" 7 Year
Smooth Ambler Distillery
$33 at Kiawah Spirits on Kiawah Island, SC
Color: Deep amber.
Nose: Caramel and vanilla, heavy orange peel, maple syrup, brown sugar, sweet corn.
Tasting notes: Rye spice, honey, citrus and fruit (cherry; grape?). Long, spicy, woody finish.
Overall: B+. Old Scout 7 Year is a solid bourbon from a company with tons of potential. The flavors are very well balanced, making for a super sipping whiskey. The high rye mash bill is very evident with a rye spice up front and a lingering finish, but the sweet honey and fruit notes are pleasant and intriguing. High marks.