Smooth Ambler Old Scout 10 Year

89 Solid

This is a very easy drinking, pleasant sipping bourbon.

glencairn-amazonThis marks our second installment in a series of whiskey reviews dedicated to West Virginia-based spirits company Smooth Ambler.   In this review, I’m focusing on the 10 year version of their Old Scout bourbon product. This should compare very nicely with the Old Scout 7 year bourbon I reviewed previously.

In an age when it seems whiskey producers do everything they can to obscure the origins of their distillate, and create false and misleading narratives about the source of their whiskey, Smooth Ambler is a refreshing change of pace. While they are distilling many of their own spirits, they also do source whiskey from other producers, namely MGP in Indiana. They are very transparent on the process, which we here at Modern Thirst appreciate greatly. To differentiate between their in-house products and the sourced products, Smooth Ambler labels all the sourced products as “Old Scout.” Thus, this is a sourced bourbon from MGP in Indiana.

SAOS 10 w-glass

Stats:

  • Age: 10 years
  • Producer: Smooth Ambler, Maxwelton, WV
  • Distiller: MGP, Lawrenceburg, IN
  • 49.5% ABV (99 Proof)
  • Batch: 14
  • Price Paid: $49.99; Louisville, KY
  • Availability: Fairly Available
  • Mash Bill: 75% Corn, 21% Rye, 4% Malted Barley

Packaging:

SAOS 10 Closeup

Tall, standard bourbon bottle with printed label. It’s unassuming, but attractive.

Appearance:

Slightly darker than copper, but not quite reaching brown, this bourbon seems somewhat light in color for a 10 year bourbon.

Aroma:

Cinnamon, caramel, and a hint of apricot greet the nose. The aroma borders on sweet, with just a hint of citrus, but nothing approaching the citrus blast of the higher rye 7 year offering.

Taste:

Sweet right off the bat, surprisingly so given the mash bill, there are plenty of hints of vanilla and caramel on the front and middle of the tongue. The texture is excellent. It is rich and full on the tongue, with a ton of creaminess. The sweetness doesn’t abate, but some slight peppery rye notes develop mid palate with mild oak on the back of the tongue.

Finish:

Medium to long, the sweetness remains as the oak fades away quickly.  The apricots from the nose finally make their long-awaited appearance here with a slash of lemon twist and citrus. There is the slightest acrid note of tannins right at the end that may alarm the drinker at first, but it fades quickly, never becoming unpleasant.

Synopsis:

This is a very easy drinking, pleasant sipping bourbon. It has a lot in common with the 7 year offering, despite the difference in mash bill and age, but feels like a more refined, less citrusy version of the same expression. I like it. If there was any complaint here, it’s that this bourbon doesn’t’ really show its age the way I would have expected a 10 year old whiskey to do.  There are some oak hints and some tannins, but by and large, the experience is sweet and creamy bourbon, not really heavy vanilla, caramel, and oak. But that might be due to lower char levels (most distillers us e a #3 or #4 char, and I’m not currently aware of what level MGP uses or from whom they source their barrels).

ModernThirst.com rating: 89 out of 100 points.


The ModernThirst.com scoring system is a standard 100 point system based on 4 categories, taken in order.

  1. Appearance: 15 points
  2. Nose: 25 Points
  3. Palate/Taste: 35 Points
  4. Finish: 25 points
  • 95+        Epic
  • 90-94     Excellent, Good representative of its style
  • 85-89     Solid sipper
  • 80-84     Drinkable, but potentially flawed.
  • 75-79     Low quality, flawed, use as a mixer only
  • <75        Rot Gut, avoid
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About Author

Bill is the Co-Founder, Editor-in Chief, and official Bourbon-o-Phile for ModernThirst.com. He is a native of Louisville, KY in the heart of Bourbon Country. He attended the University of Kentucky in the mid to late 1990s. Since college, he has dabbled in beer, bourbon, wine tasting, beer making, and currently works in finance. He has also been published on Liquor.com. He has conducted various bourbon and whiskey tastings in cities across the country. He is married with two daughters, and lives in east Louisville. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BillStraub and email him at Bill@ModernThirst.com.

6 Comments

  1. Though I’m unable to say anything bad about the 10 years I’ve had from Smooth Ambler, they are by far the most unremarkable of their offerings. Very easy to drink, no off flavors, pleasent palate, little to no harshness; yet I find myself forgetting the flavor profile. This year’s release was better than the first with a slightly more full body and barrel flavors, but I’m with you, it left me wanting more from its 10 years. Here’s to hoping their current impressive 7 and 8 year olds make for some amazing 10 year expressions.

    • I almost wonder if perhaps MGP is aging these in Indiana (likely), and a bit farther north than is ideal. there’s actually a fairly big difference in weather between just Indianapolis and Louisville, for instance, let alone Bardstown.

      While It certainly gets cold in the winter and warm in the summer in south-central Indiana, the swings are as wide and as great on a day-to-day basis as it seems to be here. Is it possible that 10 years there really isn’t the same as 10 years just 2-3 hours south? Alternatively, as I wrote in the review, maybe they just use a weak #3 or even #2 char. I’m just not getting the age on this that I would expect. Not much wood. It’s still tasty, but in a sweet, light way.

  2. Pingback: Whiskey Review Scores (March 2015) | ModernThirst

  3. Honestly, I agree with your comments, but I think you maybe could’ve gone a point higher. This is a very nice, though subtle blend. As a fan of lighter bourbons, I feel like they are under-appreciated. You may be right on the lighter char, but this is still a great weekend bottle.

    • Agree 100%…in a field that gets more crowded by the day, the 10 year sets itself apart by its consistent and easy appeal. While I tend to skew to oakier, bolder incarnations…this with a drop of cold water is a great porch buddy.

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