Review: Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye - A Sweet Beast & A Sweet Deal
We like Smooth Ambler. We like them because they're upfront about where they are in the business, their goals, and their products. And that's unusual. Like many craft distillers, they are simultaneously selling two different lines of products: Their Artisan Merchant Bottling line - an 'NDP' (non-distillery producer) range of bourbon and rye, and their Craft Distilling line - home grown grain-to-bottle spirits including vodka, gin, and bourbon. The whiskey in their craft line is aptly named Yearling, a young new product that has emerged from their own production which began in 2010. Their NDP products are labelled "Old Scout" and "Very Old Scout" and include 7 and 10 year (recently discontinued 14 and 19 year) bourbon, and a 7 year rye. It's all too common to see craft distilleries blurring the lines between their home grown products and the whiskey that they source in order to launch the brand and generate revenue while they ramp up production. It's refreshing to see a more consumer-oriented company treat us with respect and let us know exactly what we're drinking.
Today we're reviewing the Old Scout 7 Year Rye.
Old Scout Rye
Old Scout is currently available at AstorWines for $39.99. It's bottled at 49.5%, 99 proof. There isn't a ton of seven year rye on the market. We're huge fans of Willett, who produce a 4-Year rye at the same price (granted it's a cask strength single barrel), and not such huge fans (to put it mildly) of Redemption's 6-Year Barrel Proof Rye that comes in at $25 more. Granted that all three of these ryes are produced in Indiana at LDI, so who knows why there is such a vast difference in taste, but there is. There's WhistlePig & Masterson, coming to market with a 10, 11, and 12-year Canadian ryes. We haven't been as impressed with any of these Canadian ryes to date. Apart from that, there is a shortage of properly age-stated ryes on the market right now - let alone at this price point.
Nose: A lot of sweets in the nose, like those old Root Beer Barrel candies, some butterscotch, those gummy orange sections grandma used to keep on the coffee table when guests were coming over. Not a lot of barrel wood, but maybe some fresh woodsy/forest stuff going on like pine or birch leaves. Also something like cherries and Silly Putty. Pleasant and very manageable.
Palate: Staying with the sweets, but some definite spices coming out. Pepper flakes and lemon zest, some mint and a hint of licorice or fennel seed.
Finish: Very short and smooth (lives up to it's name). Well balanced, no alcohol burn. Extremely drinkable.
They've done something nice here, preserving a distinct rye character while keeping a very mellow drinkable result. That would be pretty easy if they proofed it way down to the low forties, but at near a hundred proof, that's no small job. It's a very clean and nice drink that's extremely approachable with a nice well-rounded flavor that doesn't shy away but doesn't overwhelm. This may not be the favorite pour for serious rye aficionados looking for a ballsy 'in your face' flavor blaster (see the Willett cask strength for that). But it's a perfect drink for those nights when you want something on the lighter side, and would be an excellent introduction to rye for someone coming off of bourbon, malt, or blends. It's a steal at under $40, and earns a well deserved SmokyBeast "B+" and a spot on our everyday drinking shelf. Enjoy this one, but be careful. It's pretty easy to amble your way through a bottle before you even realize it!