July 22, 2015

The Angel Barrel Part 3: Guest Review by John Malatino of SmokyPeat!

John Malatino is OUR BROTHER IN PEAT!  Great minds think alike, and in this case choose to dedicate their amateur publications to smoky, peaty, whiskey!  SmokyPeat is just that, a narrative of whiskey from many angles (of course not just covering peat monsters from Islay, but all variations of the lovely brown liquor).  John writes very thoughtful and detailed tasting notes and tries to stick with bottles that are generally available and a good value for your money.   Definitely worth some digging!

Here's John's review of SmokyBeast Smooth Ambler Rye:

Smooth Ambler - Old Scout Rye
8 Years Old - Smoky Beast Selection - Barrel #990
Straight Rye Whiskey | 64.1% (128.2 Proof) 

Tasting Notes

Color/Appearance: Dark Chestnut. Darker than any eight year old spirit should look. This is unadulterated rye at its most luscious looking. It is pretty much twice as dark as any other rye of this age. Amazing.

Sad News

Let's back up for a moment and tell the story of how I came to possess a couple of samples of this rye. A good number of months ago when conversing with SmokyBeast, they let me know that they had selected a great barrel of rye from Smooth Ambler and that would hold a bottle for me. After a few months of excited anticipation, I heard some very sad news. This particular barrel had yielded only fifty-six bottles. This left way too few bottles to go around and meant that my bottle had already been consumed, by the angels. Being all around great people, they said they would send me a sample. I also put out some ISO posts searching for anyone who might have a bottle they could part with. That search came up short of a full bottle, but another great whiskey friend, Alan, came through with a second sample. So here I sit with two samples. I really appreciate all the kindness and camaraderie that exists in the community of whiskey bloggers and enthusiasts. People are very friendly and giving, and even though we are spread out over the whole world, they help to make it feel rather close.

Tasting Notes (cont'd)

Nose: At first a little nail polish remover, then after that blows off, there are caramelized sugars, and glorious oak. Waves of complexity come at you with cold pizza dough, pine, chestnuts roasting in the park, dry leaves, damp forest floor, and dill. This is a rich nose. I did some comparing to another Smooth Ambler cask strength rye that I have open and the difference is shocking. This is a true beast, everything is turned up to eleven. Let it sit and you will be rewarded further as it gets richer and richer as the brown sugars expand.

Palate: Explodes with an exuberant flourish of strength, riding a deep structure of old wood. Wormwood, a complete spice cabinet, and sarsaparilla soda. Aged vanilla if there is such a thing, a clove studded orange, and waterlogged wood. Jittery and vibrant with a range of flavors that seem to push towards the edge.

Finish: Long and exotic, with black and red pepper, clove, spearmint infused wood, and powdered cinnamon. Oak tannins dry things out nicely and your mouth is left with a sort of excited feeling. A lingering warmth fills your upper torso and lip smacking is pretty much unavoidable. This is a whiskey you will be thinking about for at least a day or so.


This cask did magically seem to age faster than it should have. Though, yielding so few bottles is a painful pill to swallow, especially for me. With the angels taking so much every year, there are lots of ways things could have gone horribly wrong. But, when the whiskey ends up staying in balance the results can be shocking. This is basically unrecognizable as a Smooth Ambler rye, this is a cask from another planet or something. I can't stress how different this tastes. It is challenging and contemplative. It reminds me of some old scotches and seems distant from any sort of modern rye whiskey. The only thing holding this back from further heights is its super intense nature. This is certainly not an everyday drinker, but something you would bust out for your rye fanatic friends. They will be impressed. Many thanks goes out to SB and Alan for the opportunity to try this very unique and singular barrel.

Rating: 9.1

Thanks John!!  Glad you enjoyed it.  And sorry about the short supply.  We'll promise we'll make it up to you!  Luckily, John is thoughtful enough to post his wishlist as part of his site.  (not a bad idea!!)  Cheers/SB

Read another SmokyBeast Rye Guest Review!

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