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Smooth Ambler suspends private barrel program for 2017 and gives update on their own distill.

From the Smooth Ambler Spirits page on FB today (https://www.facebook.com/SmoothAmbler/posts/10155031989726495):

An update on Wheated Bourbon and Custom Barrels:

Smooth Ambler Wheated Bourbon

At long last a bit of our homemade wheated bourbon is finally ready. Andrew has chosen the best of our mature (5-6 YO) barrels and mingled them together to allow the married whiskey time to mellow and become balanced. As most of you know, we’ve struggled over the years as to when was the right time to release it. Every Fall for the last few years we’ve tasted it, become tempted to release it, and ultimately resigned ourselves to the impatient truth that it would just get better if we waited. And as good as it is today, it would only get better if we decided to wait again. But we’re not going to. We’re ready to drink a little. We don’t have much of it, though, so the rollout will be slow and careful and initially we’re only going to make it available in the gift shop and through West Virginia retailers. Some of this decision has to do with the small quantity we have and some of it, frankly, has to do with the notion that we feel like it’s a chance to say thanks to the folks in WV who’ve hung in there with us from day one. We’ll announce soon when it becomes available for sale. Retail price at the GS will be $54.99.

Custom Barrels

In the face of a constantly dwindling supply of older whiskey, and despite our best efforts to acquire more at reasonable prices, we have to make some additional tough decisions and harsh realities as we move forward. Principle among these issues is that we simply cannot continue to sell at our current pace whiskey we don’t have much of and have no guarantee of replacing. With this in mind we are suspending production on ALL custom barrel projects. There will not be a 2017 list of customers in line for or waiting for custom bottlings. We have always been and remain immensely appreciative of the surge in our business the custom program has been for us but we simply can’t sustain it until we secure more whiskey. If and when that day comes, or we dream up something else that will suffice, we will take steps to reintroduce a hand selected, custom whiskey bottling for ourselves and our customers. We do not have the whiskey to satisfy all of the current, standing orders for custom barrels on the list as it exists today. As much as it pains us, this means some people are going to miss out – irrespective of their position on the list or the length of their wait. We just can’t fill the orders, y’all. Every day we strive to find more whiskey we can make sense of procuring. Every day we look for inspiration on something new and fun and fresh we can make available to our fans. As uncomfortable and disappointing as we know this is, we hope you’ll hang in there with us as we diligently search for a solution. As a side note, I want to stress that this is NOT a result of our new NBV/Pernod partnership. The Chicken Little’s of the whiskey world can try and call bullshit on that all they want but this is a decision made from Maxwelton, WV. Plain and simple. If anything, having our new partner on board will help ensure that we have the means to expand our in-house production, and better enable our ability to buy great whiskey when we find it, and try keep this from happening again in the future. While we ramp up, though, we need to take a break and catch up. We’re looking at this as just that: a break.

– JF

Obviously the news of the barrel program being suspended is sad, but not completely surprising.  They warned us last year they were starting to run out of bourbon, and their private barrel list far exceeds the supply that is left.  We hope they are able to start the program back up at some point, to this day they remain one of the best deals around for bourbon.

We also look forward to trying their own wheated bourbon as well as some more of their limited edition offerings of rye and now probably some older bourbon in 2017.

Subourbia’s 2016 Bourbon and Rye Award Winners and Losers.

Most surprisingly tasty ‘moderately available’ release of 2016: 

Rebel Yell 10 year Single Barrel

What’s not to like?  It’s Single Barrel, 10 years old, and has an amazing redneck name, Rebel Yell.  Then again, there is also Eagle Rare.  Now don’t get me wrong, ER is smooth and great with a cigar, but this has a little more spice on the finish that I like.  My buddy @epicbourbon says its a 10 year Heaven Hill Wheater, so I’ll take his word for it, but you can take my word for it, it’s a nice addition to any bourbon bar in the $50-60 range.

Most surprisingly tasty ‘available’ 2016:

Old Forester 1920

This one you can find in a store near you.  Similarly priced to the Rebel Yell, and 15 proof higher, this is a must add for any bar.  A great depth of flavor, and surprisingly smooth for 115 proof.  I hear they gots a barrel proof version coming this year, so we’ll just have to see how the price ends up.

Most disappointing rare release of 2016:

2016 Sazerac 18

 

I don’t need to go into it again. 

Worst release of 2016:

Whoop and Holler and Woodford Reserve White Corn

 

Technically Woodford Reserve White Corn was released in 2015, but the bad taste of it lingered long enough to last into 2016.  And then there was Whoop and Holler.

Everyone else’s favorite release this year except for me:

Booker’s Rye

Everyone loved Booker’s Rye and went nuts for it.  It really never did anything for me.  I tried it probably 5-6 times, and always just thought it was ok.  I was impressed how easy it was to drink at it’s high proof, but that’s where my impression ended.

My unofficial favorite release of 2016:

Parker’s Heritage

Heaven Hill had very limited samples to send out when they announced this year’s Parkers, and I was not one of those that received a sample.  Therefore, I ‘unofficially’ declared this my best bourbon of the year.  Some people didn’t like the oak forward flavor of this, I absolutely love it.  Brown sugar and caramel dominate the easy to drink 100 proof bourbon, and the finish leaves just enough spice for me.  Absolutely love it, just wish I could have declared it official.  Maybe next year….

(I also don’t want their heads to explode, but very close runner up to this was the Heaven Hill Select Stock 20 year pre-fire bourbon.  Damn that is tasty as well.)

My official favorite release of 2016:

William Larue Weller

As sad as I was about the Saz 18, this years WLW blew me away.  Absolutely delicious wheated whiskey.  A real winner this year.

Conclusion:

2016 kinda sucked.

Granted there were a few awesome releases this year, namely the WLW, the Parkers Heritage, and yeah I’ll say Booker’s Rye for the rest of you, but most of the other rare releases were just ok.  Seasoned Wood, both Four Roses Limited Editions, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, and the 1792 releases all hit the B to B+ mark for me.

We also saw a trend of rising prices (Willett gift shop, Booker’s bourbon, etc), more age statements being lost (Knob Creek), and just a general trend of greediness that saw bottles hit shitty secondary prices too soon after they were released.  I think a general sigh could be heard throughout the land as we closed out 2016 and I think we all hope 2017 is a better year.  

If not, at least have Blood Oath Pact 3 to look forward to.