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” from Smooth Ambler Spirits in West Virginia and a 9 year bourbon rye from MGP in Indiana. It was 27% from SAS and 73% from MGP (the former Seagrams). It’s an NAS offering that brings a complex 4 grain grain blend. I have a bottle from the #35 batch and it seems to have finally reached a very good level of overall experience with an additional 3 months of aging in the original barrels after the blending. TAG Galyean and John Little founded Smooth Ambler Spirits in 2009 and set out to put West Virginia on the distilling map with a Grain to Glass attitude. This is a unique bourbon blend distilled and aged in both West Virginia and Indiana utilizing corn, wheat, rye and malted barley to achieve a blend of 60% Corn, 20% Wheat, 20% Malted Barley and 75% Corn, 21% Rye, 4% Malted Barley. It is bottled in Maxwelton, West Virginia at an attention getting 100 proof. They have produced numerous spirits and are experimenting with spirits distilled elsewhere, but with the same commitment to quality.
The bottle comes with a beautiful label of black, gray and gold accompanied by a picture of an elephant balanced precariously on a bourbon barrel turned on its side. You can’t help but notice the bottle on the shelf. 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. It begins 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 reluctantly, hesitatingly 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.
Smooth Ambler Contradiction Straight Bourbon Whiskey earned a Gold Medal at Whiskey Magazine’s 2016 World Whiskies Awards. This straight bourbon whiskey is worthy of your attention. 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.