By: David Driscoll | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: 8/29/2012 | Send Email
I want to add some perspective on this whiskey, since our notes have a limited amount of space. For the last eight months, when customers have come in and asked "Do you anything special or old in a Bourbon?" my answer has been a simple "no." Really? Nothing at all? Nope. It's not like it used to be when Elijah Craig 18 was always about $40. When Pappy 15 and 20 were rare, but not impossible to find. When Black Maple Hill, Jefferson's, Hirsch and Willett consistently put out 16+ year old selections, and even things like George T. Stagg could be found here and there. When the great Bourbon renaissance began in late 2007, things began to change. Prices were so affordable compared to single malts that everyone went straight for the oldest number they could find. Of course, the oldest Bourbons take the longest to replace, so now in 2012, we're out of everything! Even everyday bottles like Elmer T. Lee and Eagle Rare are facing shortages, and the once ubiquitous Black Maple Hill is now a rare treat. When I tasted the Very Old Scout I was in shock. Here was a mature Bourbon made of mostly 14 and 15 year old stock that delivered the goods for a reasonable price, even in today's exploitative market. I was careful not to go overboard in my review, however, because with the current shortage people are weary of being sold old Bourbon, rather than good Bourbon. I don't want to go on record as saying the Very Old Scout is clearly the best Bourbon in the history of man. But with the very best mature Bourbons unavailable to 99.9% of the population, people are quickly tiring of the effort or premium price it takes to obtain them. Here is a Bourbon that stands toe to toe with some of the best we've ever offered, even when supplies were flush. In today's drought, it's an unbelievably rare gem. It's like the kid in the movie Children of Men, or dry land in Waterworld. I bought as much as we could find so that we could keep it on the shelf for a while, but in the end, we're still dealing with a limited, one-time-only Bourbon. Smooth Ambler could have charged $100 and people would have happily paid it. He could have bottled the 17 and 19 year whiskies on their own and cashed in. Instead he crafted something magical. Our 10 year old casks of Four Roses sell for $60. Black Maple 16 year goes for $130 if you can get it. Our last Willett 20 was $200! Ebay prices for these things are out of control. Yet, here is a reasonable price for a great whiskey that offers the extra richness from more time in the barrel. It's not that old Bourbon is inherently better, it's that it exhibits a special flavor that some people simply can't live without. I don't know when we'll see something like this again that we'll be able to offer all of our customers. Most things now are 6 bottles here, 2 bottles there, gone in seconds. If you love older, richer Bourbon, then the Smooth Ambler is the best you'll find this year.