I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful wedding in Lewisburg, West Virginia. While there, I had a free afternoon and went to tour and taste the whiskey at Smooth Ambler Distillery. Our tour guide, Arri, gave an excellent overview of Smooth Ambler and an informative walk-through of the distillery. The tasting was a pleasant surprise. Here are a few of my notes.
Big Level Bourbon is a 100 Proof wheated bourbon distilled, aged and bottled at the Smooth Ambler distillery in Lewisburg, West Virginia. The mashbill is 71% corn, 21% wheat, 8% malted barley. The wheat and corn are apparent in the nose with sweet caramel notes. The caramel and vanilla come out in the taste with the oak coming through. There is also a slight taste of cinnamon on the tail end. This was described as the future of the distillery. Arri told us that the distillers are continuing to experiment and improve the process in an attempt to make a signature bourbon, unique to the Smooth Ambler distillery. I believe they are well on their way. An older expression of this wheated bourbon would be interesting to try.
Contradiction is a 100 proof blend of a 2 year old wheated bourbon and a 9 year old high rye bourbon. The wheated bourbon is made on site at Smooth Ambler and the 9 year old bourbon is sourced from MGP in Indiana. Tasting this, I was surprised that the younger bourbon did not dominate the older rye flavors of spice and caramel. Some vanilla, oak and corn are immediately apparent.
Old Scout Single Barrel Select is a cask-strength low-rye bourbonsourced from a Tennessee distiller. The mashbill is 84% corn, 8% rye, 8% malt. The nose is caramel, oak and apple. It is a smooth bourbon with vanilla, butterscotch, and leather flavors. The high corn content shows in the sweetness of the bourbon and the oak presents as a salty caramel.
Old Scout Single Barrel is a cask-strength high-rye bourbon. The mashbill is 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malt. It was spicy on the nose and palette with a taste of apple. The rye is predominant in the taste profile but there is plenty of sweet corn flavors too.
I purchased a bottle of the 13 year old Single Barrel. This 99 proof bourbon is sourced from Indiana. It is quite good with a nose that is sweet vanilla and butterscotch. The taste is butterscotch, caramel and vanilla. It is a very smooth bourbon and in 2016 received the World Whiskies Award’s “Best Single Barrel Bourbon in the World.”
Many have asked about the perfect taste of bourbon to accompany the delivery of a baby. Since this is serious stuff: first I did some extensive research and two, this is a special occasion so high quality bourbon is essential. Now, I visited the University of South Alabama School of Nursing in Mobile. (They have a simulator of a Mom about to deliver, very authentic) Since the hospital wanted me to take about 10 years of classes and buy a white coat, I thought it best to just go with the simulator. Oh, we must remember, there are two opportunities for enjoying a taste of bourbon along with the delivery. One: if you are doctor or designated deliverer, I recommend a taste or two of Blanton’s Rare Bourbon with the race horse on the top. Blanton’s is the original single barrel bourbon from Frankfurt, Kentucky. The taste is as silky as the jockey’s jersey. This is a special occasion so a single barrel smooth taste is critical.. Now if you are the Father or possibly the Father you are going to need a bold pop in your mouth bourbon taste. I recommend High West Yippee-Ki-Yay blend of straight whiskies. If this is your baby, you have either some explaining to do or need to enjoy because you will be converting to cheap vodka. Either way Congratulations on the new arrival and NO, contrary to comments from from my colleagues at the Nursing school the baby does NOT look like me. And, since the consultants are always available to help if you find you are both the Dad and Deliverer, call us Dr. Ron will walk you through after I walk you through the best bourbon in an emergency situation.
First, when sharing with a friend (only true friends share in the pleasure of tasting bourbon) it is not about grabbing a bottle on your way home from work. The true gift of bourbon is when a friend makes the whiskey pursuit a thought provoking adventure. Again, allow me to explain: You are on a trip, doesn’t matter pleasure or business or just running away, you take the time to seek out a new distillery and take a chance on their proud product. A true friend will immediately recognize that you took the time as an intrepid explorer and put some thought into the gift. As opposed to “oh a six pack beer on sale how thoughtful”
OR two, take the time to seek a bourbon that serves as a symbol for the event you are offering for gift. For instance, if you are going to an upcoming Kentucky derby party – Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the Derby, or your pal retired from a career on the Railroad so you pick up a bottle of “Cinder Dick” ( term for a railroad cop) from Colorado and one more or you are visiting a friend with a broken leg so a bottle of “Breckenridge” will be fun.
Now let me offer a classic example. Joe Sullivan, a true friend from Point Clear AL. was traveling through Georgia when he noticed a sign advertising R. M. Rose Distillery in Dillard, Georgia. Joe made a sudden detour from their established route to research a possible hidden treasure. Margaret, his adorable wife, exclaimed,
“This isn’t the way and we are short on time” (Margaret always maintains a hectic schedule and a smile) Joe calmly announced, “You are a gracious, generous, Stanford educated lady but some things you just don’t understand” He explained the detour is all about the precious gift of a unique bourbon. Joe took the time to stop at the R.M. Rose Distillery, just to pick up a bottle of their whiskey for me to taste. I must admit this copper aged incredibly smooth bourbon was a delight. And being my virgin taste of Georgia whiskey, a thrill and educational. The gift continues since R.M. Rose was a doctor in the 1800s , Joe he was also concerned about my health. Now, I was so impressed, I wanted to continue the gift giving so I took the unopened bottle to a small dinner party to celebrate a taste among new friends. Well, I opened and announced the contents was from Georgia, with a history of perfected distilling in copper pots (more on the history later) Just to check, I privately poured a healthy taste and experienced an entertaining pleasure and smooth hint of honey mouth pleasing taste. Truth to be told, maybe it was the Georgia roots but I think I tasted a bit of peach nectar.
One guest asked about not a taste, mind you, but a glass accompanied with coke. Well, one – this bourbon is too good for other than true friends and
2. With coke? Well you know how I feel about insulting fine bourbon.
So, I quickly advised, it was not what I expected, so you try another bottle from my collection or how about that bottle of wine that is already open. Thank you for recognizing the importance of true bourbon gifting.
BBBB is producing a list of Bourbon Ambassadors, along with the Consultants. Joe Sullivan and Mathew McConaughey will be the first two Candidates for Ambassadorship.
Watch for an upcoming post on BBBB Ambassador qualifications and selection.
Six thousand miles – six states – and possibly six thousand dollars (counting a tow in snow) exploring the various wild west bourbons just for you. Don’t worry, this marvelous adventure finding bourbon selections for tasting and our whiskey “edification”. Consultants Ken, Len and Ron joined me for various legs of the route westward. I felt kind of like a pony express pouch handing me off to the next rider. Here you take him, his stories are wearing me out…you get the drift.
Ken and I joined Consultant Wes (the resident expert on all things NOLA) in New Orleans to launch the “Whiskey Wandering in the West”. New Orleans is an appropriate kick off point since one legend tells us “Kentucky Bourbon” was loosely labeled when travelers and tradesmen would insist upon a taste or bottle of that “Bourbon Whiskey” interpreted as from Bourbon County Kentucky.
Naturally, a befitting night cap required a Bourbon House Restaurant and Bar . We found an appropriate Bourbon, to activate the wild west adventure, known as John Stetson. This Kentucky Bourbon follows the quality necessary to carry the John B. Stetson moniker (1830-1906) The woody flavor exemplifies the Old West. By the way, the gumbo served at the Bourbon House is tremendous.
Back to the trip. We ventured on to Houston, traveling westward. The Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center demanded an abrupt stop in Langtry, Texas. Ken and I toasted the famous Judge with a healthy sip of Long Branch Bourbon, how appropriate. Long Branch has become one of the top twenty favorites. When I always preach: “The best whiskey is dependent upon the setting” and what a perfect setting. (I say preach because sometimes good whiskey makes me religious)
Anxiously on to Santa Fe New Mexico, for some New Mexican food, a taste of whiskey and well a bit of Santa Fe (I am pretty sure there is a city ordinance that cowboy visitors must buy some type of western wear). Santa Fe whiskey drinkers are proud ofCOLKEGAN single malt whiskey. Since it is made of barley and takes on a Scotch taste, some want to say Scotch, but the distillery cautions not to label, just enjoy the smooth taste. By the way, a couple of intrepid consultants who are Scotch proponents, but true to bourbon, will be making a trek to the Distillery.
Well, between the hearty bourbon tasting and Lori’s charm at the LUCCHESE BOOT SHOP, Buckaroo Bob added to his boot collection. Not my fault, blame Lori and the whiskey.
Next stop is Durango, Colorado and on to Moab. A little snow bound car trouble in Durango allowed us to alter our course and stay over in Durango. Not to worry, we wasted no time getting all Colorado’d up with Tin Cup Whiskeyand Breckenridge bourbon whiskey from, of course, Colorado. These two are reasonably priced and on the top twenty list. Plus, Tin Cup comes with a cool tin shot cup right on top. Start your collection for serving guests or perfect wedding gifts.
En route to Salt Lake City, we would not dare travel any where near Green River,Utah without a welcomed stop at Ray’s Tavern. OK I have been around and just looking at my chubby cheeks I have tried a wide array of hamburgers. Without hesitation, Ray’s Tavern still serves the best cheeseburger and fries in the country, no the world!
Buckaroo Bob and Consultant Ken Hansen are on a mini wagon train wandering Westward. Since we are intrepid explorers , we are not lost but rather seeking your advice and recommendations for bourbon distilleries, and we need to eat so a selection of restaurants.
Our route is following the trails from Del Rio to Pecos Texas. Then onward to Santa Fe New Mexico. Just for you we will stay with whiskey even if the Tequila draws us within tasting range. Buckaroo Bob needs to concentrate on moderation in Santa Fe, since the boot shop will be open.
(For the timid, temptation is a by-product of too much tasting).
We will be traveling North through Durango Colorado over to Moab then finally Salt Lake City.
Please a guidance here because we are traveling to enlighten you on distilleries and best bourbon bets.
Oh the photo Ken is toasting to Miss Lily Langtry in front of Judge Roy Bean’s Court room. The proper toast to Miss Langtry is Wild Turkey Long Branch smooth bourbon whiskey.
The Renaissance Weekend is three days of delightful people from all over the Country, gathering to share enlightening, educational and entertaining information.
Panel discussions on a wide variety of topics, including Guest Speakers – Astronauts and Retired Naval Captains Scott Kelly, Frank Culbertson and Retired General Charles Bolden. We were honored to be informed and inspired about NASA and the past and future of space. Frank Culbertson was partial to High West Bourne from Park City.
Now a highlight of the weekend was “Everything you want to know about Bourbon” by Buckaroo Bob. (Oh I was invited to present and no I didn’t invite myself).
The panel discussion was extended throughout the day and on into New Year’s Eve dinner. .
Rugby USA CEO (also an attorney but Rugby is more important) welcomed the opportunity to taste Wild Turkey Long Branch Whiskey. Long Branch somehow has a vanilla-ish mesquite taste a bit reminiscent of Texas. AND Shahla Cowan and Irina Melnick added a classy touch to our dining experience and enjoyed John Emerald Single Malt Bourbon Whiskey, since it hints of Scotch and provides inspiration for a glorious new year.
The tasting discussion included a High West Rye, Amador Whiskey with an extra aging in a Napa wine barrel and Long Branch from Mathew McConnaughy and Eddie Russell (Wild Turkey) which started at 9:00am. The BBBB Consultants are always available and willing to share our knowledge, opinions and travel on Bourbon Whiskey as long as our fee of plenty to taste and a complimentary shot glass. (We have standards)
MORE TO FOLLOW ON OUR NEW CONSULTANTS -TRAVELS AND THE LONG PROMISED BOURBON AND HISTORY OF THE WEST.