Making whiskey is a waiting game, and for Smooth Ambler Distillery, the waiting game has finally paid off in the form of its newest product, Big Level Wheated Bourbon. This is the first release from the brand that was distilled and aged entirely in West Virginia — a big step for a company hoping to show the world what West Virginia can do with whiskey.
“We’re really happy with the whiskey and proud that Big Level is finally here to showcase years of hard work and patience. While releasing Old Scout and Contradiction over the years, it got to be pretty tough to wait and wait and wait,” CEO John Little said.
Big Level joins the other whiskies that Smooth Ambler sells as part of their “Make, Merchant, Marry ” approach, wherein they make their own (Big Level), they source whiskey from other merchants (the Old Scout line), and they marry sourced whiskey with their own spirit (Contradiction).
At 100 proof, Big Level is made from a mash of corn, wheat, and malted barley. On the nose and palate you get sweet corn and caramel notes, followed by a little bit of wood. On the palate, you get the wheat more than anywhere else — it is nice and creamy, coating the mouth like a good wheated whiskey should. There’s a little bit of heat in the bourbon, but all in all, this doesn’t feel like a 50-percent ABV spirit. It goes down smooth and leaves a nice burnt sugar flavor on the tongue.
This won’t be the last all-Smooth Ambler product you’ll see. Little says they’ve worked on a few other projects, including a rye whiskey that uses only rye and wheat (which they’re calling, appropriately, 50/50). The goal for each project is to fully realize the place they are from in their whiskey.
“We’re trying to figure out how to tell more people about what makes Appalachian whiskey different from other areas, including Kentucky.”
For those that are worried that this might signal a move away Smooth Ambler’s current releases, Little says not to fear. They plan to continue their make, merchant, marry approach into the future.
“We just completed a large expansion that enables us to run 24/7 [and which is expected to produce around 3,000 barrels of whiskey in 2018] but we’re sourcing more whiskey for our merchant bottled lines (Old Scout) than ever before. And Contradiction, the marriage of house-made and sourced whiskey, is the biggest part of our business.”
Little added that they are going to reduce the proof and price point of Contradiction (from 100 to 92 and from $50 to $40, respectively), in order to make the whiskey more accessible to more people.
Big Level Wheated Bourbon will be available in select markets starting in June 2018 and will retail for around $55. If you can find it, and that’s in your price range, we highly recommend this whiskey.