Sunday, April 27, 2014

Smooth Ambler Single Barrel Bourbons

SA Old Scout Single Barrel for Drink Up NY (Cask 86) 8 years old, 60.2%

SA Old Scout Bottled for Kimbrough 7 years old 60.5%

Nose: MGPI bourbons have all those dry, earthy, floral notes found in the ryes but instead of being prominently displayed in the nose, they are buried beneath the brute of the corn oils. Cinnamon and cloves and maybe the faintest char. Really hard to nose beyond all that alcohol without pulling out at least some ethanol and acetone.

There’s no real need to note a significant difference between the two barrels. One year apart, .3% ABV difference. For all practical purposes, these smell the same


The most significant part of these MGPI bourbons is this weird mid palate bitter note. It’s hard to describe in food terms, but reminiscent of an orange rind and some aggressive tannins. These bourbons start with bright corn oil sweetness that is quickly dominated by several bitter notes -- coffee grounds (good coffee grounds), grapefruit, allspice, and what I listed above. Those classic rye notes can be found in the palette. Like a good, self respecting bourbon the corn is a big galoot and it covers all else.

Here’s where a (side-by-side) difference can be found. The DUNY barrel offers a smaller bitterness. You could say that it’s better balanced than the Kimbrough, which is totally overpowered by that bitterness. You could also say that the bitterness of the house style is really what sets these bourbons apart from other bourbons out there and embrace what makes it different. Sometimes balance is good. Sometimes balance is boring. You decide.

Finish: Again, no need to really contrast the two. At 60% what really endures more than anything is the alcohol. A nice heat with some light rye and brine lingers for a long time. At 7 or 8 years old there’s no huge oak that smacks you at the end, no faint bitter notes that magically appear after everything else. Clean, good finish. Unremarkable in a good way.

Balance: Like any good distillery, there are great barrels to be picked out and I’m glad Smooth Ambler is giving MGPI the single barrel treatment. The bourbons coming out of Lawrenceburg are different. Bitter. Fun products. Respect should be directed to both MGPI for distilling a quality whiskey, and Smooth Ambler for bottling a quality, minimal hype bottle.

Stupid letter Grades: Kimbough: B
Drink Up NY: B

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