Smooth Ambler Old Scout, a bourbon I hate to love

Being that my birthday is just a few days before Christmas, the gathering with friends was postponed until after the holidays. The celebration of the first of my 49th birthdays was a bourbon themed event. Bourbon seasonings for the beef tenderloin, a bourbon squash soup and a bourbon raspberry chocolate cake.

Smooth Ambler

Drat, this is one bourbon I hate to love because it is not from Kentucky. It's worth a trip East to West Virginia.

We quickly began opening the collection of bourbons – 10 different ones I’ve never had before. What a treat.

Over the next several days, I’ll share the experience we had sipping these products.

I really want to be a Kentucky bourbon snob. I want to believe that the only good bourbon is a Kentucky bourbon. Turns out, there’s at least one bourbon outside the borders of the Bluegrass that is well worth a taste.

The Old Scout 5-year bourbon from the Smooth Ambler distillery in Maxwelton, W. Virginia, is quite nice. It is a product I hate to love.

It starts with a cherry aroma and has some hints of a caramel apple. There is a little pepper, but really not much spice at the end.

They say the mash has a high rye content of 36 percent, but it is not what you would expect from rye. There was not the expected bite.

But I’ve learned from the Four Roses products, that the science of the yeast can have a major impact on the flavor. Don’t automatically assume that because of the rye that the bourbon will be hot and spicy.

The Smooth Ambler Old Scout at 99 proof was quite enjoyable and complex.

The other Smooth Ambler that my friends Katy and Matt brought with them to the party was the Yearling, aged 18 moths. It is a wonderful example of the differences in length of aging.

Details on that whiskey will come later. I’ll need another sample.

(An earlier version of this post noted the Yearling was not technically a Bourbon because it was not aged a minimum of two years. A Bourbon may be called a “Straight Bourbon” if it has been aged at least two years have doesn’t have added coloring, flavoring, or other spirits. Sorry for the confusion.)


About Kim Kolarik

Exploring bourbon one sip at a time and sharing the experience.© Contact me at I've followed the original bourbon trail from my native Pennsylvania, where the whiskey rebellion erupted to Louisville, Kentucky, my current home. Bourbon is now in a revolution of expansion. I'll be bringing you news, information and tasting notes of bourbon from Kentucky and the emerging craft distillers from around the United States. I am photographer, designer and editor. --Kim D. Kolarik
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