Smooth Ambler "Old Scout" Single Barrel Rye (7 Year)

Admittedly, I was never keen on Smooth Ambler whiskey after getting a taste of an “exclusive” bottling from a wine and spirits shop here in DC. That day, I was in the hunt for a Willett bourbon. Determined, even. I think the manager recognized my taste when I started sniffing for the Willett. Most of those guys are whiskey hogs, too. They know what's up. He then offered an Old Scout bourbon sporting his namesake. Nay. I took it, but for better or worse I didn't "enjoy" it. I scooped up a bottle of his over-priced Willett Family Estate (I'm talking roughly 100% markup), but I was a newbie and I really wanted my Willett fix.

Fast forward a year and a half later. I happened upon this bottle,  as well as an 8-year single barrel Old Scout bourbon, while visiting some family and friends in Lexington, KY. I’m a sucker for a good single barrel and I was willing to dabble, especially after learning that Willett and Smooth Ambler both source their whiskey (definitely their ryes) from MGPI / LDI – I’ll revisit this fact at some point – and happens to be the same place that the Willett juice is currently coming from. Ah ha! Willett's Family Estate Single Barrel whiskies are notoriously delicious. This I know. So, maybe Smooth Ambler’s single barrel has something, too?

From the distiller:

" Old Scout Single Barrel Cask Strength Rye is just what it says; a single barrel that has been bottled at cask strength, usually between 115 and 125 proof. We pick barrels that are different from our stock selection to create unique experiences with each purchase.
A touch of sweetness leads to big spice. A bit of menthol on the nose with hints of honey and brine. Heat related to the cask strength, but still easy to drink. Maybe a touch of water helps here for some.”

Name: Old Scout Rye – Single Barrel

Proof: 119.2

Age: 7 years

Year: 2014

Delivery: Neat. Later, with water.

Color: Apple cider, auburn.

Nose: Salty, sweet combination. Resembles peanut-based trail mix, with a honey drizzle. Hint of molasses. It almost made my mouth water.

Impression: The first hit is a wash. This boy is cask strength and comes proper. However, letting it breathe for a minute or two really helped the second sipper. Really good amount of spicy rye on the front, stays just long enough to allow the other flavors to come through. The salt on the nose carries over to the palate, and I get a nice buttered rye toast, with a lasting mint residual. It sort of reminds me of how my mouth feels a couple minutes after brushing my teeth, minus the “cool” and “ahh” effect.

Overview: This is a splendid rye! At just under 120 proof, it sits at the high end for my taste, but the profile isn’t nearly as masked as some other higher proof, single barrel ryes. In fact, it does remind me a bit of the Willett Family Estate Single Barrel, as much as I hate to admit it.

After I added a couple drops of water, I really got a warm, nuttiness aroma to come through. On the tongue, I’d actually keep it at its cask strength proof. This rye is exceptionally drinkable on its own. My only big critique would be the tendency for a hard, briny aftertaste, reminds me of an over-salted piece of chicken, that will envelop your mouth for a while. I don’t mind it so much. Some might.

Recommendation: Buy it … if you can find it! I haven’t seen this whiskey anywhere in my neck of the woods here in Northern Virginia / DC. Being from the MGPI / LDI family of whiskies, I knew this would not be a dud. If you’re in the mood for a tasty, salty, and spicy rye at cask strength, this surely will not disappoint. I’d pair this with a sweet, chocolaty dessert in a heartbeat!

Grade: 3.5 – Excellent. This a rye to savor and is one of my favorites from my rye collection. With an expansive profile, there’s a nice subtleness to the flavors in this one, even with its high proof nature, still very drinkable. I’d compare it to the 6-year Willett, but the 7- and 8-year Willett ryes edge this one, solely on pure mouth feel and character. Regardless, for the price point (I got this for around $50), it is truly a "best buy" whiskey.