Some American Grain

As a European, I find the popularity, and moreso the prices people are willing to pay for American whiskey/bourbon/rye/… baffling. Don’t get me wrong, I like having a nice bourbon from time to time, both neat and in a good cocktail, like an Old-Fashioned.

However, I find the overall variety in flavors to be a lot smaller than (single) malt whisky, let alone rum. Of course, marketing is no stranger to Americans so limited releases are quickly picked up by drinkers and flippers alike, making the prices skyrocket. I wonder how long it will last before this bubble bursts…

Anyway, on to the tasting. I’ve picked out 4 samples. The first 2 are from the West-Virginian Smooth Ambler distillery

Smooth Ambler Contradiction

The Smooth Ambler contradiction is a blend of fairly old spirit (said to be about 9 years old) distilled at Indiana’s MGP and 2 year old distillate made by Smooth Ambler themselves.

Nose: Apple pie, maple syrup, some pine and chestnuts. There’s a rather sweet note reminding me of a cooked pear as well.

Palate: Stewed apples, vanilla, caramel fudge and a hint of demararra sugar. There’s a hit of white pepper on the back-end transitioning into the finish.

Finish: A short to medium finish with white pepper, pencil shavings and some resin.

Comments: I quite like it, especially the nose. Might help that I’m a bit of a contrarian…

Score: 82/100

Smooth Ambler Old Scout

This is said to be a 4-5 year old whiskey. Possibly a blend of Dickel and MGP, but I can’t confirm that.

Nose: A lot less enthousiastic than the Contradiction. I’m getting some dark honey, creme brulee and some spices.

Palate: The young age is quite apparent here, with mostly grain notes and a bit of bubblegum.

Finish: Quite short with a hint of tannins and oak spice.

Comments: There’s nothing bad here, but it totally failed to capture the enthousiasm I had for the Contradiction.

Score: 75/100

Sagamore Spirit Rye – Cask Strength – 56.1% ABV

Usually rye whiskeys are made alongside regular bourbon to have a broader differentiation of the product portfolio. Not so for Sagamore Spirits. This distillery based in Maryland exclusively makes rye whiskey. This one is a blend of 4 to 7 year old spirit.

Nose: Very mentholly, almost like entering a slightly dusty apothecary. Some spice like cinnamon and clove, and also some lemon rind.

Palate: Quite a strong arrival but it quickly calms down with notes of milk chocolate and coffee beans. There’s also some honey, eucalyptus and clove in the background.

Finish: A fairly short finish for the ABV. Some tannins at the front of the finish which subside into clove, vanillin and a single coffee bean.

Comments: I quite like this one. It offers a decent complexity but still maintains its approachability. $60 if you’re in the States, quite a bit more in Europe.

Score: 85/100

Wu Dram Clan – A Kentucky Distillery – 3 yo – 52.7% ABV

Wu Dram Clan is a German bottler who’s making quite a few waves lately, bottling whisky, cognac, armagnac, rum, bourbon and possibly more I can’t think of right now. This bottling was done for the Dutch shop Passie voor Whisky.

Nose: It’s quite light, even floral. Some vanilla, Werther’s Original, hay and a mix of eucalyptus and lavendar.

Palate: It’s quite *smooth*, especially for its age. However, I can’t get a lot further than the standard bourbon notes: honey, caramel, some menthol, vanilla.

Finish: A short to medium finish with a bit of tannins, caramel and vanilla.

Comments: It’s a smooth, easy sipping dram, but fails to stand out for me. And this way, we’re back to the intro of this post.

Score: 78/100

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