Smooth Ambler’s reputation for fantastic sourced whiskey all began with a haul of almost 400 barrels of bourbon and rye from MGP back in the early 2010’s. Before the bourbon boom was at it most ridiculous, liquor store shelves around the nation were full of single barrel picks that were bottled at barrel proof and carried old age statements. The relatively simplistic packaging and the lack of advertisement essentially meant that these bottles were there for the taking for any bourbon enthusiasts that were in the know.
Old & Affordable Stocks of George Dickel
Then in 2016, the MGP stocks that Smooth Ambler relied so heavily upon pretty much dried out. They had already begun to distill their own distillate, but by 2018, their own products were not giving them the same success that they had once had. With MGP temporarily tapped out, Smooth Ambler had to look elsewhere for distillate and turned down South to Tennessee for relief. They found it in the form of the old and affordable stocks of George Dickel.
Using the same bottle and an almost identical label, Smooth Ambler began to release a large amount of 13 year old single barrels that were bottled anywhere from the low 90’s to around 115 proof. Consumers quickly flocked to the shelves with the hopes that Smooth Ambler could rejuvenate the brand, although they made it no secret that the juice inside was sourced from “Tennessee” (and we all know where that means).
I felt so confident with my love of Barrell Bourbon, that I decided to get a bottle of this for the low price of $70 and wanted to see if any of the old magic remained. For this review, I sampled this neat and in a glencairn.
Nose: As far as scents go, this one has lots of sweetness. But not like caramel, more like an artificial sweetner. It can best be described as a Capri-Sun juice pouch that has set out in the sun all day. There’s another artificial fruit scent, but this time it’s like the artificial blueberries in those pre-packaged blueberry muffins pouches. Finally, if you’re able to look past these you’ll find some Nilla Wafers on the nose as well.
Palate: The palate doesn’t even try to hide the fact that this is a Flintstone vitamins bomb. It’s like a handful of them were blended into a can of creamed corn. There are a couple other flavors like peanut butter and jelly, but I can’t get over the vitamin’s taste.
Finish: Metallic, graphite and mineral notes will not leave my mouth. It’s almost like I’m taking medicine with every sip. There’s some saccharine-like sweetness that There is a tiny bit of oak, but those metallic and mineral notes mix with a saccharine-like sweetener and won’t let me taste anything else.
I continued to sample this, month after month for 5 months just to make sure my palate wasn’t off, but it was always the same. I could not escape this sort of weird artificial sweetness and overwhelming amount of multivitamins. And for the people that may think that I just don’t have a taste for Dickel, I can assure you I do with all of the Barrell Bourbon that I drink.
I believe this is just a poorly selected single barrel that makes me question how many other ones were this bad. I would not recommend to take the chance on these, but instead, upgrade by spending about $20 more and getting a Barrell Bourbon Single Barrel that has about an extra year of age, still is cask strength and exhibits essentially none of this vitamin aftertaste.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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