Whiskey Name: Smooth Ambler Old Scout Bourbon 7 years old
Distillery: MGPI. Selected, blended and bottled by Smooth Ambler
Whiskey Type: Straight bourbon
Release Date: General
Price: Mine was £50
Age: 7 years old
Mashbill: 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malted barley
Introduction/Background: A sourced bourbon from Midwest Grain Products of Indiana (hereafter MGPI, or this could get long). Some people seem to have a problem with such things; partially because the notion of a whiskey factory rather takes away from the romance of distilleries, and partially because certain craft distilleries try to cover up the fact that their whiskey is sourced.
From my own point of view, as long as distilleries are open about their sourcing, I don’t have a problem with it whatsoever. Indeed I’d probably rate MGPI in my top 3 or 4 US distilleries, and the guys at Smooth Ambler have long-since proven themselves to have an eye for a great cask. Besides today’s 7 year old there’s a 10 year old bourbon, a range of single casks, and some rather-harder-to-find rye. (As an aside, if you do find the rye, buy it on the spot.)
I first tasted the 7 year old about a year ago, shortly before we tasted our way through the range with CEO and Master Distiller John Little. For some reason I then didn’t come back to it for a while, until a bottle called to me from its shop shelf about a month ago, as bottles are wont to do.
As with all Smooth Ambler products, it’s bottled without chill-filtration, meaning that all the lovely mouthfeel-driving oils and fats stay in the whiskey. It’d be good to see this as standard practice in bourbon, to be honest, but that’s slightly wishful thinking.
Nose: For £50, there’s a lot going on. The deeper, sweeter notes are there; caramel, milk chocolate, brown sugar, vanilla etc, but there’s also a ripe banana fruitiness. Intertwining it all and keeping it steady is that rasp of 36% rye. Actually shows solid maturity for 7 years old; spices like nutmeg and cinnamon mingled with cigar tobacco.
Mouth: Just a gorgeous, unctuous, oily mouthful of joy. Alcohol completely receipted and filed by richness of texture and depth of flavour. An explosion of caramel and nutmeg working in tandem; for two cents I’d hold this in my mouth until my teeth started hissing.
Finish: Nutmeg becomes leaner and turns into a grind of black pepper. But sweet, thick caramel and butterscotch remain the guiding hand on the tiller.
Value for Money: Worth every penny.
Summary: Just. So. Good. I love a decent dollop of rye in my bourbon, but what makes this one work so well is that it doesn’t tell the whiskey’s whole story. Sure it’s an unmistakeable presence, cracking its spicy whip and driving that nutmeg, but just as big of an influence is the outstanding mouthfeel, and the huge caramels and chocolates those seven years have ripped from the cask.
In short, it’s a properly complete bourbon experience. The palate follows the nose without mimicking, the story changes with each sniff or sip, and there’s no single dominant characteristic. Rounded, robust, flavour-forward stuff, choc-full of personality.
Overall Verdict: I’m going to say it. My favourite bourbon for under £50.
Words by WhiskyPilgrim