Today's review comes with a pretty neat story attached to it. A story about generosity in a world where the prevailing moral and ethics seems to be all about what you can gain for yourself, instead of what you can share with others.
As I probably mentioned before, it’s no secret that I hold Smooth Ambler – that this review will focus on - in high regard, but a lot of their products, like their Very Old Scout releases (a variety of different age stated bourbons), aren't available outside the US, and the few Old Scout Single Barrel releases that actually made it to Europe are all long gone, so we Europeans have had to settle with their Contradiction, their Old Scout 7 and 10 years old bourbons and their 7 years old Rye, but as many of you probably know, sadly their rye was discontinued back in 2015 and their age stated bourbons followed suit in 2016, but at least the good news for all of us Europeans is, that Smooth Ambler’s NAS American Whiskey finally made its way to some of the major European whisky retailer’s stores.
Being a fanboy of Smooth Ambler, it kind of goes without saying that I have been looking to find a way to purchase a bottle or at least a sample of any given Smooth Amblers Very Old Scout and/or their Single Barrel expressions, but for years all my endeavors was in vain, and as time went by, I slowly started to write the opportune to taste any of the expressions off, as yet another whiskey I would never be able to taste, but by coincidence and the kindness of strangers, I finally got the opportunity.
My Swedish whiskey partner in crime; Linus, who’s partly responsible for that I’m a part of the close-knit Nordic Bourbon Blind-Sample Society, takes a yearly whiskey pilgrimage overseas to the States. The last time Linus was there, his go-to liquor store owner informs one of his best customers that this bourbon crazy Swede is coming to town, and the customer, a stranger to Linus at the time, invites him over for a cup of bourbon. The strangers’ whiskey collection is impressive, but there's especially one bottle that captures Linus's eyes; A 14 Year's old Smooth Ambler Very Old Scout. So, there's Linus, literally thousands of miles away from home, freely to choose among a number of amazing whiskeys, but he chooses to ask the stranger if he is willing to spare a sample of his Very Old Scout. Not for himself, but for his buddy in Denmark. Without hesitating, the stranger fills a sample bottle large enough to contain a sample for both Linus and… “Yeah!”… “You already guessed it, didn’t you?”… “Me!”
It brings me great comfort and joy knowing that there are people out there, who believe that whiskey was meant to be opened, enjoyed and shared with other like-minded fellows, not asking the slightest thing in return, not even from a total stranger, that doesn't even share the same nationality as you do, and I'm happy to say, that I know my fair share of people who live by the same mindset in this world where whisk(e)y in so many ways has been transformed from liquid sunshine to liquid gold, that are being purchased and resold to the highest bidder by whisky investors and collectors - who apparently got tired of playing Crypto day traders with their best buddies and collecting Vintage Bordeaux’ - or simply being flipped for insane amounts of money by your everyday whisk(e)y consumer, who grabbed the chance when he had it, and stocked up on that Highland Park with the dim Viking name.
Smooth Ambler. Very Old Scout – 14 Years
Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery: Smooth Ambler
Origin: MGP (Indiana)
Age: 14 Year
Average US Price: $85USD/514dkk
ABV/Proof: 100 Proof/50%
Release: Limited release
Smooth Ambler’s Very Old Scout is sourced from MGP in Indiana, and they don’t reveal its mash-bill.
There's a healthy dose of barrel char on the nose, followed by the bourbon trinity; Vanilla, caramel, and brown sugar, with crème brûlée and orange peel strapped in, at the back seat. Truth be told, at first I find the nose to be a tad too sweet and a bit plain (read boring) for my liking, but after giving it a damn good swirl and about 10 minutes time in the glass, it opens up big time and becomes way more balanced, and a light wheat note reveals itself, and I really start to enjoy the whole show.
Very dusty dry mouth feels, almost like being fed a shovelful of pleasant oak sawdust, if you get my drunken drift? It's extremely mellow and oh so pleasant. We are dealing with orange and apricot at first, followed by milk toffee, peanut butter and cinnamon stick in perfect harmony.
The finish is long with toasted oak and a faint taste of black pepper.
Did you miss my previous description of Smooth Ambler? Hit this link, and we will take you right to it!
(This review was written as part of a blind tasting)
Review By: Hasse Berg
Photo By: Linus Jonsson