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Issue 125 - Smooth Ambler: The Curators

Whisky Magazine Issue 125
January 2015


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Smooth Ambler: The Curators

Sourcing whiskey in the Allegany mountains

More than 2,200 feet above sea level near the Allegany Mountains, where black bears roam and bald eagles soar, West Virginia's Smooth Ambler distillery follows the tune of its leader–John Little, a sturdy 5ft 9ins red blooded American who's developed one of the most fascinating brands in American whiskey.

Part sourced whiskey, part craft distiller, Smooth Ambler enjoys a cult-like following for a simple reason, disclosure. In 2011, to help fund the new company, Smooth Ambler purchased 40 bourbon and rye whiskey barrels at $980 apiece from the former Lawrenceburg, Indiana, Seagram's distillery called Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana, aka LDI that was selling whiskey stocks to distillers and independent bottlers around the country. (LDI was later sold to the MGP Ingredients company). Smooth Ambler was also making gin, vodka, white whiskey and even aging its own product. But it would be these LDI barrels under the Old Scout label that would shape Little's future. They build the customer base that foams at the mouth for a bottle, frequently snapping social media pics when they find a special bottle in a liquor store. On the Old Scout label, it reads 'a fine, curated whiskey: scouted during our efforts to find an exceptional American whiskey with smoothness and flavour we admire.' The labels also disclose the fact the whiskey was distilled and aged in Indiana.

Around the same time, other companies were doing the same, but chose not to disclose the state of distillation and trie...

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