Picking a Single Barrel Smooth Ambler Old Scout 107 with John Little

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When I saw that a local Total Wine was holding a spirits class with John Little from Smooth Ambler, I was excited. Then I noticed that the description of the event said that the class would pick a single barrel for the store! I signed up as quick as I could. 

The class started with John running through a bit of bourbon 101 along with tasting of three of his whiskies along the way:

-The Smooth Ambler distilled wheated bourbon, Big Level.

 -The blend of Smooth Ambler wheated bourbon and MGP sourced bourbon, Contradiction. 

-The blend of MGP and an American Whiskey from Tennessee aged in recharred barrels with an 84% corn, 8% rye, 8% barley (cough Dickel!), Old Scout American Whiskey. 

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Big Level, for me, has great promise but at five years it still needs more age to be great. It still has a bit of astringent graininess characteristic of young whiskey. In two or more years this could be really good though!  

Contradiction was the best of the line in my opinion. We discussed the early batches of this whiskey had some poor reviews and John Little clarified that the whiskey has gotten older over the few years this has been out. This seems to show in the flavor and this is some pretty good bourbon!  

Last, but certainly not least, we poured three single barrels of Old Scout American Whiskey at cask strength and tasted through them to select a single barrel for the store.  

Barrel 1 had a very light nose and was quite one dimensional with a short finish. 

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Barrel 2 had a much sweeter nose with caramel, vanilla, and a bit of baking spices. The palate and finish were night and day better than #1 with nice caramel and dark spices.

Barrel 3 had much of the same sweetness as barrel 2 but without the long finish and baking spices.  We managed to get a bit larger pour of #3 but that still didn’t push it over the top. 

After some discussion with John Little on the strengths and weaknesses of the three barrels, barrel 2 was the clear winner.  

We needed a name for the barrel, so I suggested we name it “Holcombe” after the street this Total Wine sits on. There were several other interesting suggestions but most of those were trademarks of the Houston Astros or just strange: The sex robot pick just wasn’t going to sell! 

It was a fun experience and very cool to meet John Little and have the experience of picking a barrel for the store. I can’t wait to pick up a few bottles. For about $40, it’s damn tasty whiskey. 

P.S. John Little mentioned they are distilling three whiskies: the wheater, a high rye bourbon, and a rye whiskey. Stay tuned as their distillate reaches prime whiskey age!

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Doug CarrollComment