I don’t really know much about the ins and outs of the American whiskey world (“makes perfect sense that you’d do a whole month of American whiskey reviews then,” ed.) and I’m not even sure who or what Smooth Ambler is. Smooth Operator’s more leisurely sibling? Eric Ambler’s porn name? Anyway, I got this sample from Sku on my recent trip to LA and from his typically verbose review I gather that some entity named Smooth Ambler put together this bourbon for K&L’s Faultline label from two MGP bourbons—one from a low rye mashbill and one from a high rye mashbill; and it was doubtless the greatest bourbon ever in at least one excited email from David Driscoll.
Anyway, this been has an entirely pointless and almost entirely content-free introduction—though hopefully I’ve caused at least one of you to look up Eric Ambler.
Faultline Bourbon (50%; Smooth Ambler for K&L; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Mellow, leading with corn sweetness and following with mild rye spice. The rye notes then build (pine, dill). There’s something else somewhere between talcum powder and dusty wood. Gets sweeter and sweeter as it sits but now it’s much more driven by the rye than the corn. With a splash of water the rye recedes and now there’s some mild caramel and brown sugar.
Palate: Very much as on the nose. The rye is perhaps less dominant here and everything is very well integrated. Nice, soft mouthfeel. On subsequent sips, however, the rye jumps out just as it did on the nose and now there’s a bit more of an oaky bite and some cinnamon. Nothing interesting happens with water.
Finish: Medium. The rye spice fades out into a menthol coolness. The oak and cinnamon that showed up later on the palate hang around into the finish as well. A little too much wood emerges at the very end with water.
Comments: Seems like the high rye bourbon in the mix is dominant. Indeed, it doesn’t taste very far away from a 51% “barely rye”, and I would have believed that’s what it was if tasting it blind. A very nice and easygoing everyday drinker. I don’t know how much this went for (it may still be around) but around $30 this would have been a real winner.
Rating: 85 points.
Thanks to Sku for the sample!
K&L still has a few bottles of this left – it’s $40. For someone who knows nothing about nothing you’re pretty conversant with your mashbills and MGPs, just saying. I bought a couple of these – partly because Sku was just going on and on about it, and partly because they ship them in nice styrofoam containers that could be reused. I found like you that MGP’s bourbon in general tastes a lot like a rye whisky. This lead me to wonder whether what we think of “rye whisky” is in fact “MGP whisky”, and their signature comes through regardless of the “mashbill”, to use your fancy word. I know there are other rye whiskies out there, but an Alberta rye, a Buffalo Trace rye and a MGP rye taste all quite different from each other.
This being said, it didn’t taste like rye whisky *enough*. The woodiness that you notice in the finish was a dominant note to me. It certainly is a good bourbon, but I find that between this bottle and a Smooth Ambler rye (49.5%) I almost always choose the latter.
BTW, good luck with the “Corti Bros Most Excellent Marigold-Enhanced Whisky”. Sku’s card is 0 for 2 with me so far.
I like to throw words like “mashbill” around to seem like I’m part of the American whiskey in-crowd. Someday soon I hope to go “dusty hunting” as well. I draw the line at “juice” though. All the actual info is lifted from Sku’s post.
Michael K. reviewed this today—he seemed to like it more but ended up at same score. Which is to say, I might have given it another point or two if I’d found as much fruit as he did.