We’ve all been there. You walk into your local bourbon emporium looking to buy something new. Something you haven’t had before. But where to start? If you are like me, you started by grabbing one of the nicest bottles you could find. These cost a bit more, so they must be better… right?
After a while you exhaust the top couple shelves and since you are still looking to try that next one you move down a shelf. Maybe you move down a couple shelves. In any case after a while, as you scan across the multitude of bottles on the shelves, you start to realize that a lot of the “distilleries” named on the back of the bottles seem to all be located in the same few towns in Kentucky.
“Wow, Kentucky has a lot of distilleries you think to yourself.” After you do your research, you realize that, no, it really doesn’t. Most of those are all made by the same 8 distilleries. They’ve been lying to you all along. “Well, I’ll just stick with craft whiskey,” you think to yourself. “At least then I know who’s selling me the bourbon I’m buying”
Yeah… One of the saddest days in an educated drinker’s life is the day that he or she realizes that they can’t trust marketing. That it seems that every liquor company under the sun is actively trying to trick you out of your money. It doesn’t take much curiosity to know that only a relative few craft distillers really are distillers. Those that are should be supported and celebrated. They are not only competing against the big guys, but they are competing against independent bottlers who claim to be craft distillers. People who denigrate the good name of your local craft distiller with lies about old family recipes and gangsters.
Smooth Ambler, in Maxwelton, WV, is not one of these people. They are a craft distiller. They are also an independent bottler. And they admit as much every where they can. I’ve seen it on their website, on twitter, they even tell you in person when you visit. They’ve gone so far as to make sure that the whiskey they make and the whiskey they only bottle have two different brand names. Smooth Ambler is the stuff they make, Old Scout is the stuff they only sell.
I respect the hell out of that. And it is especially easy since they make a product with a lot of promise and sell a product that is really damn tasty. On my last visit, after my wife fell in love with it at the after-tour tasting, I bought a bottle of Old Scout Ten from the gift shop. A bourbon that’s been in oak just over twice as long as Smooth Ambler has been in business. (Once again, information that is freely available on the label.)
Old Scout Ten
Purchase info: Somewhere around $50 for 750 ml, Smooth Ambler distillery gift shop (lost the receipt).
Bottle Details: Batch 10, Bottled on 10/29/2013, 50% ABV, “at least 10 years old”
Nose: An initial second of buttered popcorn before moving into what can only be described as apple pie filling. Cooked apples and baking spices. And of course, a nice hit of caramel to go with it.
Mouth: Vanilla, caramel, dark chocolate, mint, ginger and clove.
Finish: long, warm and sweet with lingering ginger, clove and mint.
Thoughts: I love this one. It is the basic essence of what I look for in a bourbon. Share this with your friends. Even though it’s a tad aggressive...yum. I’m buying more next time I see it.