A visit to Smooth Ambler and a review of their Yearling Bourbon
In November of 2013 I was traveling through West Virginia. It was Black Friday and I was in the mood to follow that great American tradition of spending money. As it was my first time through West Virginia, I only knew of one place to stop. Smooth Ambler, in Maxwelton, WV is a fairly short detour off of Interstate 64 at the Lewisburg exit.
I stopped in fairly late in the afternoon, not really expecting to get on a tour, but hoping to at least give them a little of my hard earned cash. To my happy surprise, I was able to do both.
We joined up with a tour already in progress in the still room.
Shiny fermenters all in a row. A far cry from the giant tanks that the big boys use, but if you aren't making as much as them one giant tank would be much less flexible than a few smaller ones.
An empty barrel waiting to be filled. As you can see, they get their barrels from Independent Stave (like almost everyone else) and they like char #4. Which according to our tour guide on the ISC tour is pretty much what almost everyone gets.
Bourbon barrels filled just a day or so before we visited. This is either the start of a new set of racks or they are waiting to be put somewhere. Most of the stacks were twice this high.
Apparently they are aging a wheat whiskey and something called 50/50 as well.
After aging was tasting. I really like this tasting room. I'm a big fan of red and wood together.
Though they make a gin and a vodka, my wife and I decided to concentrate on those things that spent some time in a barrel. I tried the Barrel Aged Gin and found it to be a tasty gin. I also tried the Old Scout Rye. I knew before I tasted it that they did not make this. One of the things that I liked about these guys is that they made no secret of that fact. There was no claiming it was from a secret family recipe that a gangster used to prefer. It was just "we bought this because we liked it and now you get the chance to like it too." And I did. I thought it was tasty. My wife tried the Old Scout and Old Scout Ten. She liked it enough that that's the bottle we brought home with us. Unfortunately I was not able to try the Yearling which is the only bourbon that they've put out that they made. So that meant I needed to keep my eyes open for it on the way home. I was really interested in trying something that was admittedly only put out to satisfy the curiosity that whiskey geeks had over what the products they made themselves might taste like. Luckily the Party Source was able to satisfy my desire.
Smooth Ambler Yearling Bourbon
Purchase Info: $24 per 375mL bottle, The Party Source, Bellevue, KY
Details: Batch 6, Bottle Date: 11/14/12, Aged: 1 year 8 months, wheated bourbon, 46% ABV
Nose: grain and butterscotch
Mouth: young, hot and sweet. This is the sweetness of grain though, not of barrels.
Finish: longish with a lingering sweetness that transitions to vegetal
Thoughts: To say that this is good would be a gross overstatement. That does not mean however that is it bad. It is what it is. It's a young bourbon that needed much more time to mature. It shows a lot of promise though and I can consider my curiosity duly satisfied. I'm excited to see what this will turn into with 5-8 more years under it's belt. For now though satisfy your curiosity, but don't expect much more out of it.