745 Industrial Park Rd.
Maxwelton, WV 24957
Tour – Review
Please enjoy our Smooth Ambler Distillery Tour!
Smooth Ambler Distillery Tour
Smooth Ambler Distilery was established in 2009 by John Little and his father-in-law, TAG Galyean. Their initial success came from not only selling well-aged whiskeys procured from what is now MGP, but also the fact that the company disclosed that their products were sourced. This transparency continues today as Smooth Ambler produces whiskeys which are both sourced and distilled on-site, as well as a combination of the two. Come along and learn more as we take a tour!
A Time of Transition
We were fortunate to be able to visit the Smooth Ambler distillery in the small town of Maxwelton, WV. Our visit was two-fold as both a tour and barrel pick awaited; however, the focus of this article is the tour. We met our guide Andrea in the distillery gift shop. Andrea began by telling us that it is a time of transition for Smooth Ambler, because as of July 1, 2022, the company is now 100% owned by Pernod Ricard. Prior to that, Pernod Ricard owned a percentage of the company. As a matter of fact, Pernod Ricard is no stranger to the whiskey biz. Not only do they have a world-wide portfolio of wines and spirits, they also own a few American whiskey distilleries including Jefferson’s, Rabbit Hole and TX Whiskey.
On To The Production Area
While Andrea began by giving us an overview of distillery operations, the glass windows along the gift shop wall provided us with a great view of the main production area. Our first stop was “through the looking glass” and onto the production floor. The majority of the production at Smooth Ambler Spirits takes place essentially in this one large room. The focal point of the room is the centrally located 36 foot tall Vendome column still, with its copper pot still doubler off to the side. The “low wine” comes off of the column still at 125 proof, and then is distilled up to 140 proof in the doubler. Just in front of the still is a control center, where the operator keeps a watchful eye.
The Mash Tank and Fermenters
To the right of the still, on the way to the fermenters, is a relatively compact area. Here are housed the 800 gallon mash tank, water tank and beer well. The grain that fills the mash tank is non-GMO and locally sourced, supplemented with additional grains from the midwest.
Next, we arrive in the fermenter room. This room houses twenty-two 800 gallon fermenters. The bases of these tall tanks come into view as we entered the area. Walking past the tanks, we then ascend the stairs to an elevated walkway where open fermenter hatches allow us a peek inside as the yeast has its way with the mash. Andrea tells us that fermentation lasts around 4 days, with the final product being a distiller’s beer having an alcohol content of around 8%. Once the fermentation is complete, the “beer” is transferred to the beer well. Here it will remain until it heads to the still.
The barrel room is right off the fermenter area. From here, the filled barrels go to one of the 13 rickhouses to age. The rickhouses are located about 1/4 mile down the road, in a “holler”. Interestingly, the warehouses are numbered 1 through 12, and “G”. Because of superstition, there will never be a Rickhouse 13 at Smooth Ambler Distillery.
The magic behind Smooth Ambler’s whiskeys is blending. Whether it is sourced whiskeys, a combination of sourced whiskeys and their own distillate, or just their own, masterful blending accounts for the great flavor and success of the brand. Blending takes place in a single room containing the dump station and blending tanks. The man in charge is Stu.
Smooth Ambler Distillery has their own full bottling line. Prior to bottling, the bottles are rinsed with high proof white dog. The bottling line was not running when we visited. However, the distillery operates 12 hours per day, 7 days a week. In addition, there are plans for expanded hours in the future.
Smooth Ambler Bourbon and Rye Tasting
Lastly, no tour is complete without a little tasting of the finished product! Smooth Ambler Distillery has essentially three different lines of whiskey. All are available for sampling at the gift shop tasting bar along with some limited releases. The Smooth Ambler whiskeys are:
- Contradiction: “Mingled Whiskies”. These are a blend of house distilled whiskeys, as well as those from Tennessee and Indiana. There is both a Contradiction Rye and Bourbon.
- Old Scout: “Procured Whiskies”, many of which come from MGP in Lawrenceberg, Indiana.
- Founders’ Cask Strength Series: Smooth Ambler distills these whiskeys in Maxwelton, WV. Initially, these were rye whiskeys, but the series now includes bourbons as well.
- (Big Level Bourbon, is the recently discontinued wheated bourbon distilled entirely at Smooth Ambler. The Big Level Bourbon lives on as a component of the Contradiction Bourbon.)
What A Visit!
Smooth Ambler is a unique distillery. They began like many, sourcing bourbon from larger distilleries. However, they were honest about it, and their customers appreciated it. Over the years, Smooth Ambler has grown to produce multiple lines of sourced and house distilled whiskeys. If you ever find yourself in the Maxwelton, WV area, definitely stop by and see for yourself!
We hope you have enjoyed our Smooth Ambler Distillery Tour! Next, check out our Smooth Ambler Old Scout Bourbon Review!
Would you like to learn more about distilleries and bourbon? Are you planning a trip to Kentucky Distilleries? Maybe you would like to live the bourbon life vicariously through us?🙂 If any of these are true, then check out BourbonObsessed.com today!