Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye

SmoothAmblerRye (1)S

This bottle of Rye Whiskey joined the whiskey collection of the 12 Bar Blues Bar in late December 2015.  It was gift I received at a job interview.  This was my introduction into the world of Craft Distilling. This is my favorite Rye Whiskey and in the interest of full discloser Smooth Ambler is a customer of ours. They are located in West Virginia and I am not sure how wide their distribution is but here is Smooth Amblers web site for more information.

Smooth Ambler Distillery

It is called Old Scout because it was not distilled by Smooth Ambler.  Instead they collected barrels of of rye whiskey from other distilleries and blended to create a fine example of rye whiskey called Old Scout. This is a common practice among distillers and something a young distillery would need to do if they wanted to sell a very good whiskey without waiting years for their own stock to mature. Buying and blending whiskeys is an art just as important as distilling.

SmoothAmblerRye (2)S

The bottle I am tasting today is aged for seven years and is from batch 14 bottled on May 28th 2013. It is 99 proof or 49.5 ABV. The bottle is a nice clear shoulder bottle with a cork stopper. The colors on the label are purple and gold just like my high school colors.  Maybe this is why I love this whiskey.

SmoothAmblerRye (3)S

The spirit is a deep amber color like honey with a nice viscus cling to the glass indicating a good body. The alcohol does hit the nose along with a nice spice as you would expect from a rye whiskey. The spice smells somewhere between clove and allspice with hints of caramel and vanilla. The taste lives up to the aroma.  The front and back are smooth with a little bite in the middle.  Of course this describes where in the mouth the burn happens.  The front being the tip of the tongue then the middle and back of the mouth. Do not be afraid to drink this whiskey neat.  With ice the sweetness and oak from the barrels starts to come through more. It is a very hard to put down this rye whiskey.

SmoothAmblerRye (4)S

This whiskey is great to sip neat or with a couple of ice cubes. Today I will use it to make a Manhattan.

  • 2 oz Old Scout Rye
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 1 maraschino cherry

Mix whiskey, vermouth, and bitters with ice until chilled then strain into a martini glass.  Add a cherry and enjoy.

FYI this made the best Manhattan I have ever had.  Using good spirits make all the difference.

Vikre Distillery – Boreal Spruce Gin

Boreal Spruce Gin is from Vikre Distillery in Duluth Minnesota.

Boreal refers to the northern forest where they harvest some of the botanical for this gin. When I first saw this gin, I had to try it. It reminded me of my brother, Alex’s love of spruce tip beer. Just like Alex, Vikre harvests light green spruce tips and adds them to their gin.

You can see more about Vikre at:  Vikre Distillery

Gin Bottel
Gin Bottle

Gin is a clear, distilled spirit that is be made with juniper berries and other botanicals.  Caitlin from Vikre told me that they taste the tips from each tree to ensure the tips are sweet.  They only use the best tasting tips in their boreal spruce gin.  It must be worth the effort because this gin is very good.

Gin Bottle Close Up
Gin Bottle Close Up

Taste and Appearance

The gin is clear and devoid of any color with some body.  The smell of juniper is a sweet pine, like a freshly cut Christmas tree.

There is no burn at the start or end of the first drink. That was not expected, because it is 90 proof or 45 ABV.  On the first drink, it coats the entire mouth with a smooth, piney flavor that is not overpowering.  This is not anything like drinking turpentine, even though I can’t says I know what that would be like. This is a very pleasant tasting gin.

I wonder if you could sip this gin over ice and enjoy the flavor and body with its smoothness.  This gin definitely would make a great gin martini. The chill from the ice cube brought out even more of the spruce tip flavor. If you love spruce tip beer or gin, then you enjoy this gin and it should be part of your basic bar stock.

When I first tried this gin, the people at Vikre gave me lessons on how to pronounce the name, which wasn’t that hard.  They even wrote it out on their business card for me.  Here is your first lesson:  “veek-ruh”.

Card with pronunciation
Card with pronunciation

Drink of the week

If you enjoy gin, there is no better drink than a Gin and Tonic. A couple of weeks ago, I read that even people who do not like gin generally enjoy Gin and Tonic. The two flavors compliment each other at a molecular level.  On a hot day, this is definitely a nice drink.

Gin & Tonic
Gin & Tonic


  • 2 oz Boreal Spruce Gin
  • 4 oz chilled Tonic Water
  • 2 Lime Wedges
  • Splash of Orange Bitters

Fill an old fashioned glass with ice.  Add gin and tonic and mix well. Add orange bitters and squeeze limes over glass and drop in.