Whiskey Review: Smooth Ambler Founder’s Cask Strength Series Straight Rye Whiskey

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Smooth Ambler. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

For the first time since its founding in 2009, Smooth Ambler is offering a rye whiskey release that was mashed, fermented, distilled, aged, and bottled solely at the West Virginia distillery. Up to this point the company has been very transparent in its sourcing, and this next step towards completely in-house production is an exciting moment for Smooth Ambler.

The Smooth Ambler Founder’s Cask Strength Series Straight Rye Whiskey utilizes a cooking style called ‘infusion cooking.’ As explained by Smooth Ambler founder and CEO John Little, “Our style is to cook it at a much lower temperature… basically, think of it like kind of like smoking [meats], like low and slow. Then we increase the temperature and we add the malt. So instead of bringing malt on the way down, we actually cook at a lower temperature and it takes longer to break the starches down.” This five-year, non-chill filtered straight rye whiskey was created with a recipe of 88% rye and 12% malted barley.

The whiskey was produced with the help of Seagrams Master Distiller Larry Ebersold, who has worked with Smooth Ambler since 2013 in certain consulting roles, before helping design continuous column stills, replacing the previously used pot stills. The largest difference between the two is that pot stills operate batch to batch, while column stills can be operated continuously.

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The Smooth Ambler Founder’s Cask Strength Series Straight Rye Whiskey is a powerhouse at 61.1% ABV, barreled in number four char barrels from the popular Independent Stave Company. The Cooper’s Select barrels are toasted once and then charred, with staves yard-aged 12 to 18 months.

Smooth Ambler Founder's Cask Strength Series Straight Rye review

Smooth Ambler Founder’s Cask Strength Series Straight Rye Whiskey (image via Jerry Jenae Sampson)

Tasting Notes: Smooth Ambler Founder’s Cask Strength Series Straight Rye Whiskey

Vital Stats: Aged five years. 61.1% ABV (122.2 Proof). Batch No. 2. Mash bill of 88% rye and 12% malted barley. Priced at around $65. Maxwelton, West Virginia.

Appearance: The whiskey is clear burnt orange, with a lower viscosity.

Nose: I immediately got a bit of wood and turpentine. Black licorice and toffee followed the initial sylvan aroma.

Palate: There is a bitter front that mellows into a nice finish. Leather and varnished wood notes make this whiskey a unique tasting. There is a tight feeling to the whiskey that opens with a splash of water.



This rye is definitely different. For my particular taste I need to add a little something sweet, maybe a little cola, because the high proof can be overwhelming on the palate. The bitterness needs a bit of balance to create a more pleasant drinking experience.

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Jerry Jenae Sampson

Jerry Sampson is a freelance writer, editor and screenwriter. Her creative work is ever improved by her love of whiskey and craft cocktails. She enjoys taking cool fall days to explore the great distilleries around Portland to get a closer look at the inner workings of her favorite spirits.