Nose: Caramel, vanilla, and pipe tobacco pull through a thin layer of alcohol. The scents are subtle and not particularly inviting.
Palate: Chewy pipe tobacco and burnt wood are rounded out by chocolate and a hint of cherry fruit. There’s a nice, distinctive earthy quality that really comes forward in the sip, and I just can’t help thinking how well this might pair with a cigar.
Finish: A bit of spice pops right away along with an astringency that’s a little out of place. This fades quickly and leaves you with the chocolatey, earthy, burnt wood flavors from the palate. Oddly it starts bad and ends good, leaving some really nice flavors behind.
Uniqueness: John Little and Tag Galyean established Smooth Ambler in 2009. Like David Perkins did with High West, they decided to source some of their whiskey so they could offer some reasonably aged bottlings along with in-house distilled offerings. Not surprisingly, these are sourced from MGP in Indiana. MGP distills a good deal of what we see on the shelves under many names, however the end product is always a little different. In this case we don’t really have anything unique on paper, but what we do have is a flavor profile that has an earthy quality I just don’t come across that often. Lucky for us, the folks at Smooth Ambler certainly know how to select barrels with a nice flavor profile.
Value: At $39 this is not priced to fly off the shelves, but it’s not greedy either. Smooth Ambler is a newer company and could have easily marketed this as a craft bourbon for $60 or more. Fortunately they didn’t, and their pricing is spot on as a result. Moreover, the pricing combined with their honesty of the bourbon’s origin has earned them my trust.
Overall: It’s refreshing to pay a reasonable price for a bourbon I had little expectation for and be surprised by relatively good quality, a unique flavor profile, and a company with a solid story to back it up. At around $39 it’s definitely worth buying a bottle as Old Scout represents hand-selected sourced bottles much like you may have experienced with some of Willett’s bottlings. The underlying earthy quality of this bourbon really resonated with me, as I find it fairly unique in its overall profile and quite enjoyable. Be sure to check out our write-up of a private selection bottle of Old Scout (barrel proof, 8 years old), which takes the good qualities of this standard release to a whole new level.
To sum it up: Good bourbon, good price, interesting company. I’m excited to see what else Smooth Ambler has in store.
-Nick - Reviewed: 4/2015
1 - 4