Saturday, September 1, 2018

Smooth Ambler Big Level Wheated Straight Bourbon

- $59
- 100 Proof
- Batch No. 11
- West Virginia

Smooth Ambler has been able to develop quite the cult following around its Old Scout line, sourcing delicious bourbons for years. They've bottled some of their own stuff as well, though those offerings haven't quite garnered the attention that the Old Scout line has. Recently, Smooth Ambler released Big Level, a wheated bourbon that is all their own.

Although no age is stated on the bottle, the interwebs tell me that it's 5+ years old.  What I take from that is that, while that is certainly still on the younger end, it's not as though they rushed this product out early for the sake of generating revenues. Rather, somebody felt it was aged well enough to bottle it under Smooth Ambler's name and release it to market.

The nose on this was interesting. I got some alcohol off of it, but oddly got a bit of a charcoal flavor. I know it was distilled in Virginia, but that alone should not have imparted such a note. I also got a bit of overripe apple, which I've always associated with young, craft whiskies.

My first impression upon taking a sip was that this is very sweet, like sugar cookie sweet. It had a bit of a baked goods flavor to it, but with a whole bunch of sugar to it. Unfortunately, it also had that craft-ish flavor to it, that familiar over-ripe apple flavor that is just so off-putting. Granted, the sweetness was something that other craft whiskies haven't been able to accomplish, but it was still hard to get past.

On the finish I got a certain amount of tartness that just didn't work for me either. I like a good cherry tart note. However, this was more of a "bad blackberry" type note. It had that dark berry note, but it just wasn't quite right, and it certainly wasn't enjoyable.

I don't know if it was the wheat or what, but I also got a distinct wood note, like chewing on a twig. It was earthy and dry. That with the tartness gave a bit of an orange peal, and even some amaretto flavor. Don't get me wrong, though, this did not approach the flavor of an old fashioned or anything like that. Rather, these were just more the bitter aspects of these flavors, and they just didn't work to make this much more enjoyable.

I had high hopes for this whiskey, and as I made my way through the bottle I wanted very badly for it to improve over time and with a little oxidation. But, in the end, it came across as unbalanced and unrefined, and I just didn't find it that enjoyable.

Grade: C-

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