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Smooth Ambler - Old Scout

Nose: This has a caramel, vanilla, raisin and cinnamon scent that is a bit on the light side. Palate: This hit me with a little bit of heat right up front. It wasn’t harsh or burning, but definitely warmer than many of the last few reviews and certainly noticeable much earlier. On the second sip, the heat didn’t kick in until the mid-palate but it lasted through the finish, which is moderately long. I picked up darker flavors like slightly burnt brown sugar and molasses as well as alcohol flavors that were mildly astringent. I THINK I’m getting some rye notes, but it is hard to tell because of the heat. The finish includes some pepper and cinnamon and something else I can’t quite put my finger on. Comments: This is 99 proof and it is easy to believe. In fact, I would perhaps have guessed it was of a higher proof. What’s odd is, it isn’t just “all heat”. It has a complexity of flavors that I like but they are slightly drowned out by the heat. It states on the label "aged 7 years” so that may be where the complexity is coming from? Although I don’t do it often, all this lead me to believe that this might be a good candidate for a few drops of water. So….I added about 6 drops or so and then let it sit for a while. Yep, that’s what it needed. Just those few drops dropped the heat enough for the richness of all the other flavors to come through. It came across as well balanced, with a “dark” sweetness….dark chocolate, cherries, burnt oak, rye spice, cinnamon and honey….and probably more. By the end of the glass, I was really enjoying this one. If you are going to try this one, as always, I recommend you first try it “the way it comes”, but on this one, a few drops of water can make all the difference. The Smooth Ambler Distillery is in West Virginia, started in 2009, and I’ve been there. Nice folks. At the time of this review, it looks like Old Scout appears to not be available anymore (sorry!), but it was sourced from MGP in Indiana and the mashbill was 60% corn, 36% rye and 4% malted barley. At the time, this sold in the $30 range, which was a refreshing change from the new distillers who feel it necessary to charge much more to more quickly recoup their costs. In this case, I think it was a good strategy, as this distillery seems to be doing well a decade later. I’m not sure, because I’m having Internet problems this morning (the repair crew is “on its way”), but I think they may be bottling their own juice now.

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