Months ago I reviewed Smooth Ambler’s Contradiction Bourbon. It was a blend between Old Scout, a wholly sourced whiskey, and their in-house bourbon. I liked it enough, but I wanted to try the two whiskeys separately. So, today we’re reviewing Smooth Ambler Old Scout. We’ll touch on all the details next before we jump into tasting notes.
- Spirit: Blended American Whiskey
- Owned By: Pernod Ricard
- Distilled By: Indiana Distillery (MGP) and Tennessee Distillery (Dickel)
- Aged: NAS: 4+ years
- ABV: 99 Proof, 49.5% ABV
- Mashbill: Likely a blend of 75/21/4 or 60/36/4 and 84/8/8 (corn/rye/malted barley)
- Price: $35-40 (Can find for under $35 at Total Wine)
Blended American Whiskey
First, let’s talk about what makes Old Scout a blended American whiskey. There are two distinct whiskeys that go into a batch of Old Scout. The first is an MGP bourbon. We don’t know exactly which bourbon mash it is and it’s age, but it’s thought to be the either 75/21/4 or 60/36/4 mash and aged ~7 years. Again, we don’t know for sure, but it is aged a minimum 4 years due to the NAS.
The second whiskey is sourced from Tennessee, thought to be from George Dickel. It uses a bourbon mashbill, 84% corn, 8% rye, and 8% malted barley, but it’s not actually a bourbon. The only reason Old Scout American Whiskey isn’t a bourbon is because this sourced whiskey is aged in rejuvenated, re-charred bourbon casks.
Why Does That Mean it’s Not a Bourbon?
Bourbon has to be aged in virgin charred oak barrels. A virgin barrel is a barrel that has never been used before, it can’t hold anything prior to whiskey but water. A rejuvenated, re-charred oak barrel is simply a used barrel that was charred again.
Old Scout American Whiskey Proof and Price
Everyone who drinks a lot of whiskey has an ideal whiskey. Not just from a taste perspective, but from a grain, age, proof, price, etc. perspective.
For me, my favorite whiskey is often in the $50-60 price range, but my ideal whiskey costs $30-40. I’ve loved some 80 proof whiskey and some 120 proof whiskey, but my ideal whiskey is 94-110 proof. I like some wheated bourbons/whiskeys, but I much prefer rye.
So far, Old Scout American Whiskey is checking some of my boxes – 99 proof, aged 5+ years (thought to be 5+), uses rye as the accent grain – but we’ll see if I like it.
Old Scout American Whiskey Tasting Notes
Before I try Old Scout, I’m going to let you in on something. I’m a little worried about the blending. I have nothing against blended whiskey (unless it’s blended with neutral grain spirits aka vodka), but sometimes blends work great and other times not so much.
Smooth Ambler Contradiction was a quality bourbon, but I didn’t think it blended well together. It’s time to find out if that’s the case with Smooth Ambler’s Old Scout.
Nose: Classic bourbon notes off the bat – oak and sweet vanilla. A touch of citrus but a lot of darker, dried fruits – fig and plum. Banana shows up a bit, too. a hint of cinnamon, pepper, and brown sugar. There’s a candied sweetness to it. Overall, this is a pleasant nose, and it smells like quality whiskey.
Palate: Vanilla and a little more caramel on the palate. Those darker fruits show up in the mid palate with oak. Some pepper comes in at the back of the palate. Letting it sit for 10 minutes or so brings out a light roasted peanut note, too.
The mouthfeel is pleasant and it’s an easy sipper, especially for it’s 99 proof.
Finish: Dried fruits sit underneath a lot of oak with a sizzling pepper. Short to medium in length, the oak seems to sit around longest.
Just based on the nose, I could tell that Old Scout American Whiskey was a quality spirit. The oak and vanilla coming off the glass were well rounded and rich. Dark dried fruits and banana were sitting behind it nicely. The spices were muted but still present. The more the whiskey sat, the more roasted peanut began to show up.
My first sip wasn’t great, and I thought the flavors clashed. It was a nice vanilla, oak, and fruit, but then a sizzling pepper came in – likely from the Dickel whiskey. However, once you get past that first sip and pepper sizzle, it actually becomes quite nice.
It’s still broken up a bit between with the dried fruits and vanilla up front with pepper taking over at the back end, but I wouldn’t describe it as clashing or sharp.
The finish is a bit lacking to me. Oak, pepper, and dried fruits. The fruits disappear quite quickly, the pepper is light which makes it an easy sip, but it disappears soon after the fruit. Oak is the strongest and sits around the longest, but fades the whole time.
Is Old Scout American Whiskey Good?
This is really two questions. An objective one (objective to a degree) – is it rich? Well-rounded? Is it sharp? Is it an easy sip or harsh one? Is it thin or oily? Then there’s the subjective one – Do I like it? Do I think it’s worth buying?
Objectively, and in relation to other whiskeys in the ~$35 price range, Old Scout American Whiskey is well rounded, it’s not thin, it’s not sharp, and it’s an easy whiskey to sip, even at it’s bottling proof of 99. If 99 proof is too much for you, simply add a splash of water.
Subjectively, I’ve enjoyed Old Scout American Whiskey. Is it my favorite bottle around? No. Is it a good bottle of whiskey for $35? Absolutely. I will happily drink this, and I feel confident in gifting it or sharing it with a friend, too.
Smooth Ambler’s Contradiction Bourbon wasn’t bad by any means, but I’m taking Old Scout over Contradiction.
Old Scout sources whiskey from MGP and George Dickel, and I definitely think the Dickel whiskey has a larger fingerprint on Old Scout American Whiskey than the MGP bourbon does. With that being the case, you could elect to go straight to the source and pick up a bottle of George Dickel Barrel Select.
It’s got the same 84/8/8 mashbill, it’s reported to be 9-12 years old, and undergoes the Lincoln County Process (as well as aged in new charred oak vs rejuvenated oak). It also happens to be my favorite Tennessee Whiskey.
Smooth Ambler’s Old Scout American Whiskey Summary
I like Smooth Ambler a lot. You can check out my review of their Contradiction Bourbon for more info on the company, but they distill their own whiskey in the hills of West Virginia and source/blend plenty of stuff, too. They are the epitome of whiskey experimentation, and I respect it.
Old Scout American Whiskey may be wholly sourced, but it’s what they produced before they were able to distill and age their own supply. They still produce it now that they have their own whiskey because it’s good (and to make money of course).
Ultimately, I can only speak upon my experience with this whiskey. I liked it, and I’ll continue to enjoy it. I also appreciate the company behind it. If you’re looking to try something new for a reasonable price, not necessarily find a new favorite whiskey, give this a shot.