If you're in the Bay Area and you like whiskey, chances are you've heard of San Francisco Wine Trading Company. If you haven't, go. Now. It's got the best selection for miles in every direction. They also choose some awesome private bottles. We loved their Willett private barrels from a couple of years back. Now they're part of the Smooth Ambler Old Scout barreling program, and you know we're kind of into that (read: OBSESSED).
More SAOS please!
Fred Tocchini heads up the spirits operation at SFWTC and needless to say when he asked us if we could review his new SAOS pick, we were more than happy to oblige. This one is a 10-Year Bourbon, coming in at 104.8 proof. That's actually pretty low for the single barrels that Ambler's been putting out.
Just to recap why we love Smooth Ambler, they put out these bottles uncut and with the most minimal amount of filtering. It's MGP/LDI sauce, so in theory it shouldn't be that different from many of the off-the-shelf bourbons you can pick up in the store. Then again, it's not that easy to find a 10-year age-stated, single barrel, cask strength bourbon these days. Add the cask selection from a palate like Fred's and we suspected we might be pleasantly surprised.
Nose: Creamy lemon sherbet, rose petals, potpourri. A little sweet corn and bubble gum. Wait, HUH? We thought SAOS barrel picks all had a high-rye mashbill. This noses just like a Four Roses OESO barrel: sweet, creamy high-corn, low-rye recipe. What gives?
SmokyBeast: Hey Fred, what was the mashbill on this bottle again?
Fred: 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malt.
Palate: Wicked smooth, a little malty, very little spice. Some char comes out and a little punch from the full-test spirit. But overall we're still in this high corn mode here without the massive spice we get from most of these SAOS bourbons.
Finish: We're back in this citrus ice cream thing, like a lemon cookie / vanilla ice cream sandwich. Extremely smooth and round, amazing palatable at full strength with no irrigation.
Ok this is weird. Is it possible, however unlikely that Fred got the recipe wrong? We knew that SA did bottle some low-rye barrels in the past. Just for the hell of it, we figured we'd trust yet verify.
SmokyBeast: Hey John. Was curious if you could tell me the mashbill on this bottle: San Fran Wine Trading Company SOAS 10-Year Bourbon, Barrel #1182?
JohnLittle: 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malt.
SB: Wow, could have sworn it was a low-rye thnx!
JL: No problem. is it good?
SB: Yeah it's very good, but super mellow, tastes like a 4R OExx bottle, very light and creamy.
JL: Nice. Sounds delicious.
SB: Yeah, indeed. But we have come to love the big spicy ball-kickers you've been putting out.
JL: I can come kick you in the balls while you are drinking it.
And there you go. So for a limited time, John has agreed to provide a free kick in the nuts with every bottle. Get it while it lasts.
Just for kicks, we thought we'd try this one with some water and see how it swims. What's really interesting is that with a teaspoon of water, the spice really opens up. The citrus and cream are still there but more of the richness comes out and we get some of that good baking spice that was missing neat.
Seriously though this is a delicious bottle and very unusual for a cask strength high-rye bourbon. If you get the chance to try it, jump on it, and add a little water to see if you have the same experience we did. Thanks Fred and John for pairing up on another winner.