By Father John Rayls
Smooth Ambler Contradiction Straight Bourbon Whiskey was a real surprise!
I wasn’t expecting much from a blend of a somewhat young 2 year old “wheater” bourbon, made in-house by Smooth Ambler in West Virginia, and a 9 year bourbon rye from MGP in Indiana. The Smooth Ambler wheated bourbon was made with a 60% corn, 20% wheat and 20% malted barley mash bill, while the latter bourbon came from MGP’s 21% rye stock.
This follows a new pattern among bottlers who are transitioning to becoming distillers: mixing their own young spirits with existing stocks of mature spirits. Other recent examples include WhistlePig and Yellowstone. I have a bottle from the #35 batch, which has been improved by an additional 3 months of aging in the original barrels after the blending.
The bourbon is a medium to dark brown in both the bottle and the glass with a heavy influence of rust and copper coloring. The legs are very deceptive, beginning with a solid ring of tiny droplets surrounding the entire glass. Just when you think there may not be any legs, they suddenly appear and slowly begin their snail-like migration to the bottom of the glass. It leaves a film covering the entire interior of the glass with no evidence from where it came.
The nose is somewhat complex with no alcohol burn or any tingling experience. It’s not faint but somewhere between subtle and medium intensity with aromas of oak, sweet corn, caramel with some very light cherry on top. It tends to vary slightly with each nosing.
There is a very nice creaminess to each tasting. The palette portion of the experience tends to be extended in length with flavors of oak, honey and caramel. There is plenty of cinnamon bringing some sweet heat transitioning into pepper. The primary action is mid-mouth to the back of the mouth with activity both high and low with some lingering burnt sugar experience. The long finish eventually shows up with some additional warming leading to some white pepper presence. It becomes a whole mouth activity involving upper and lower and moving from back to front. It ends in a woody and dry presence.
Although officially priced at $55, you can find it priced from $37.00 to $59.00 across the Internet and appears to have a broad availability at local retail outlets.