September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, and there is no better way to celebrate than enjoying a bourbon that holds a special meaning or connection. I previously thought my home state of West Virginia was only associated with moonshine versus anything aged in a barrel. I looked up West Virginia distilleries and found a handful, with some exclusively producing moonshine. I don’t think it’s necessarily that moonshine is popular in West Virginia as much as there not being a culture for finer food and drink. The culture exists, but in small pockets.
Moonshine may be the native spirit of West Virginia, but it was refreshing to discover a distiller that is making a quality product and distributing it on a national level. It was July when I was introduced to a bottle of Smooth Ambler’s Contradiction. Contradiction’s name comes from it being the first product that Smooth Ambler offered which they don’t distill and age on site – something they were originally opposed to. Contradiction is 27% comprised of their own 2 year Smooth Ambler Bourbon with a high-wheat mash bill, and 73% comprised of their sourced Old Scout 9 Year Bourbon which has a high-rye mash bill.
Smooth Ambler’s Old Scout Bourbon and their Revelation Rum are the two products which they classify as “Artisan Merchant Bottled” as opposed to being something they make in-house. Regardless of whether it’s fully made in-house, when I came across a bottle of Old Scout 7 Year Bourbon, I had to try it. Old Scout 7 has a beautiful dark amber color, with the signature bourbon sweetness on the nose and a clear presence of rye. There is also a hint of tobacco on the nose and cinnamon notes on the palate. It’s oaky, spicy, and 99 proof, but able to be sipped neat. Many would prefer this on the rocks or in an Old Fashioned.
Overall, I’m impressed with Old Scout, and at $30 I think it’s a steal. I’m excited to see Smooth Ambler bringing craft spirit production to West Virginia, and think that their past 6 years of hard work is evident. With Smooth Ambler plowing the way, it’s only a matter of time until West Virginia moonshine becomes more a part of treasured history than an active stereotype.
Smooth Ambler Old Scout Bourbon (7 Year)
Mash Bill: 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malt
Age: 7 Years (minimum)
Bottle Details: Batch 107, Bottle 1/6/15, by Sarah
Awards: Gold Medal, Best of Show & Best of Class, 2012 American Distilling Institute; 95 points, 2012 Wine Enthusiast; Silver Medal, 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition
The Smooth Ambler Old Fashioned