Whiskey is many things to many people. To some, a friend; a comforting presence that comes by at the end of a pleasant evening to pick you up in its muscular, hairy arms, which are barely contained in a flannel check shirt, and take you off to bed, while your drowsy head rests against its chest and is tickled by the fur of its beard.
To others, an especially unpleasant type of horrible poison.
This review of Smooth Ambler’s Old Scout Rye is definitely aimed at the former. It’s an incredible experience, but as it’s 49.5% ABV, it packs a fair wallop, so this is certainly not an entry level brown liquor.
Smooth Ambler is a six year old distillery based in West Virginia, a “patient crafter of Appalachian spirits” if you will. Its ‘Old Scout’ range of spirits pays particular attention to discovering older American whiskies and marrying them carefully with a smoothness and flavour that perhaps wouldn’t have been found in their traditional ‘swigged out of a moonshine bottle’ high-proof form.
Old Scout’s Straight Rye Whiskey, aged for seven years, is about the best American whiskey I have ever tasted. It’s made in very small batches, has a 95% rye, 5% malt mash bill, and frankly a bargain retailing at around £49.
Pure, beautiful, sweet succulent caramel. It’s so rich. I could just spend all evening wafting this up my nose without even tasting it. However despite its sweetness, it will still make your nose hairs retreat.
Taste (without water)
The caramel remains, but it’s hiding a rambunctious surprise. A sizzling warmth; a gnarled strength; a rough hewn nature that doesn’t take off its muddy boots before entering your nice clean home and making itself comfortable in your bed.
It’s also as strong as an ox, so again this is not a whiskey for beginners. But that’s not to say that it isn’t a gorgeous, sumptuous drink. Old Scout Rye is a complex experience, full of comfort, intrigue and joy, while always retaining its caster sugar sweetness.
There’s no doubt about it, this is a night-ender. Truly a night-cap in every sense of the word. Do not expect to do anything constructive after this. But then why should you? Just sit back and soak in its warming, caramel goodness before you dream of a new life in the Appalachian mountains. 4/5