Earlier this month, we reviewed the reborn Old Scout Single Barrel Bourbon, which died an untimely death, along with the standard Old Scout Bourbon, when the distillery ran out of sourced MGP stock in 2016. That wasn’t the only casualty of Smooth Ambler’s shortage. There was also an Old Scout Rye (MGP’s beloved 95/5 mashbill) which we, unfortunately, never got the chance to review, but whose quality and value I can confidently attest to. Only rarely would a single barrel version of that whiskey be made available at the gift shop in West Virginia, and fans reportedly went so far as to charter small planes to fly into the tiny airport adjoining the distillery in Maxwelton to secure a bottle. Such was the Old Scout hysteria of yore.
While Smooth Ambler doesn’t yet have the stock to reintroduce the standard Old Scout Rye, the distillery has added Old Scout Rye Single Barrel back to the portfolio and made it available at the distillery gift shop and at select retailers and restaurants. For their first ever foray into finishing, Smooth Ambler also recently introduced a version of their rye whiskey finished for an unspecified amount of time in French oak Port casks and available only at the gift shop. We got our hands on a sample of each. Thoughts follow.
Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye Single Barrel 4 Years Old – On the nose, there’s a sweet, wood-driven flourish of sawdust and barrel char laced with raw sugar, dusty spices, and lots of mint. The telltale dill so often found in MGP-made rye is almost undetectable, replaced by brighter herbal notes of lemongrass and fennel. The palate is bold with burnt sugar, big helpings of baking spice, and fistfuls of fresh mint. The cask strength makes these flavors pronounced but never overbearing, everything riding on a peppery, yet manageable, heat into a long and generously warming finish of crème brûlée and clove. A lovely young rye, well “scouted.” 114.4 proof. Reviewed: Barrel #16857. A- / $70 [BUY IT NOW FROM FROOTBAT]
Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye Port Cask Finish – No age statement or details on the length of the Port finishing are provided. The aroma has an unusual austerity at first, showing only faint hints of wine skins, some muted dill, and a touch of black pepper. With considerable time, the nose builds with deeper notes of stewed dark fruit and dark caramels. The palate is a complete reversal, with an immediate, syrupy pop of red fruits and caramel sauce. It’s silky on the tongue with a rich sweetness that evolves to dark berry jam and cinnamon stick with a touch of barbecued meat. The finish sees that barbecue turn extra-charred with a final bit of cocktail cherry and berry cobbler. 103 proof. A- / $60