Smooth Ambler- Appalachia's Homegrown Distillery

Head up U.S. Route 219 from Lewisburg and look for the Green Valley Airport in the unincorporated community of Maxwelton. There, you will stumble upon one of the great secrets of West Virginia--Smooth Ambler Distillery.

A Little Crazy Can Go a Long Way

It takes a little crazy to start a business from scratch. According to the Founders of Smooth Ambler Distillery, you need to be fierce, resourceful, hardworking, creative, and a little crazy to make award-winning whiskey in the heart of West Virginia's Appalachian Mountains.

Grain to Glass

Smooth Ambler aims to use the best of the Appalachians. They source local ingredients and use local water. And they leverage cool temperatures and seasonal variations. That’s how they create unique products unlike anything else on the market.

On their Instagram account, Smooth Ambler explains why the climate is so crucial to creating their bourbon.

One of the secrets to making our bourbon so damn delicious is our climate. Greenbrier County is about 10 degrees cooler than KY, which we believe gives us a more mellow aging environment for our whiskey. Aging it in the fresh mountain air with the perfect cadence of four distinct seasons. @smoothambler August 2, 2021

In addition, they keep waste down by selling the mash waste from their distilling (sometimes called silage or spent grain) as feed.

The Distillery

John Little started with pot stills. But after consulting with Seagram’s Master Distiller Larry Ebersold, he moved to column stills. (Column stills allow for continuous distillation.) Ebersold is responsible for MGP’s 95 percent rye and 5 percent malted barley mash bill. He was also instrumental in helping Smooth Ambler perfect their Founder’s Rye.

Smooth Ambler Distillery

The Spirits

With their characteristic transparency, Smooth Ambler divides its spirits by source. Homemade whiskeys are just that, 100 percent created in the Smooth Ambler distillery – from grain to bottle. Procured whiskeys are sourced from other distilleries. They are then brought back to Smooth Ambler for blending and bottling. Mingled whiskeys are a marriage of procured and homegrown spirits. These are blended to create some of their most exciting expressions to date.

Procured Whiskeys - Old Scout

Smooth Ambler’s Old Scout was the first whiskey they produced. The bourbon is sourced from Tennessee and Indiana’s MGP distillery. Then it’s blended and bottled in their Maxwelton distillery.

Old Scout Single Barrel - Straight Rye Whiskey - 105 Proof

Old Scout is created from Ebersold’s high-rye mash bill of 95 percent rye and 5 percent malted barley, sourced from Indiana. The casks are brought to the distillery where they are sampled, and the best are chosen for Old Scout Single Barrels.

Old Scout Rye Port Cask Finished Straight Rye - 103 Proof

First released in their tasting room, this cask-finished rye was such a hit that they started making more. This straight rye is sourced from the same source as their Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey. Then it is finished in tawny port barrels, giving this spirit a velvety mouthfeel.

Old Scout Bourbon - Straight Bourbon Whiskey - 99 Proof

With a mash bill of 60 percent corn, 36 percent rye, and 4 percent malted barley, this bourbon has notes of cherry, pipe tobacco, leather, and butterscotch. The whiskey is sourced from Indiana and bottled on site.

Mingled Whiskeys - The Contradictions

Smooth Ambler needed something to bridge the gap while their homemade spirits aged. So they began playing around with mixing sourced and homegrown spirits. Contradiction was the child of that union.

Contradiction Bourbon - 92 Proof

Contradiction Bourbon is a blend of three aged whiskeys from three different states. First is an 84 percent corn, 8 percent rye, 8 percent malted barley from Tennessee. Next, there’s a 75 percent corn, 21 percent rye, 4 percent malted barley from Indiana. Last, add a dose of homegrown whiskey mashed, distilled, and aged at Smooth Ambler. Its mash bill is 71 percent corn, 21 percent wheat, and 8 percent malted barley.

The combination produces a unique spirit with an average age of around nine years.

Uproxx’s Christopher Osburn reviewed Contradiction Bourbon. He recommends it for Manhattans and Boulevardiers or sipping, due to its unique flavors.

The MGP whiskey is high rye, and this gives the nose a nice, sweet peppery start. This quickly moves into dried cherries, toasted vanilla, and cinnamon sweetness. The first sip brings forth more cracked black pepper along with dried fruits, sweet vanilla, caramel, and toasted marshmallows. The finish is long, dry, and full of comforting pepper spice.

Contradiction Rye - 105 Proof

Contradiction Rye has become a favorite of many. One of our favorite reviews is from Zack Johnston, which concludes with, “Goddamn, this is easy to drink, especially at this price point.”

Like its bourbon sibling, Contradiction Rye is a mix of multiple whiskeys. This time, they combine 70 and 51 percent ryes from Tennessee, a 95 percent rye from Indiana, and Smooth Ambler’s own 88 percent homegrown rye.

Breaking Bourbon reviewed Batch 8 and found, “The added proof allows its rye flavors to shine through and grants flexibility as a higher proof sipper or as a cocktail base. Additionally, each of the states that the rye was sourced from offers a slightly unique taste that mingles well when combined.”

Smooth Ambler Distillery Spirits

Homemade Whiskeys - Founders

Founders’ Cask Strength Series Straight Rye Whiskey - 114 Proof

Founders’ is the first of Smooth Ambler’s spirits made and aged at their distillery. It has a mash bill of 88 percent rye and 12 percent malted barley and is aged in the cool West Virginia climate in Number 4 char barrels. The barrels come from the Independent Stave Company. Their barrel staves are yard aged for 12-18 months; then, the barrel is toasted before being charred.

Little uses an infusion cooking method for his rye--a technique that cooks the rye mash at a lower temperature. The temp is then raised before the barley is added. This “low and slow” method brings out toasted oak and toffee notes, sweet black tea, and herb spices in the whiskey.

Proof and flavor notes will vary since this is a cask strength release.

Final Words

Is your mouth watering yet? If so, not to worry. Smooth Ambler’s partnership with Pernod Ricard has increased the availability of their whiskeys. Check out their online tool to find out where you can pick up a bottle or have a dram.

Intrigued by bourbons and want to learn more? Check out one of our Ultimate Guides. Tried Smooth Ambler and have a story to share? Drop us a note in the comments.

~ Cheers!