View Full Version : New from West Virginia

08-03-2011, 07:11

I joined a while back but haven't made an introduction.

I'm the head distiller and partner for a small, craft distillery in West Virginia: Smooth Ambler Spirits. We make a variety of products including vodka, gin, white whiskey and are currently aging 5 different types of whiskey (mostly bourbon) in everything from 5 to 53 gallon barrels. We do it all from whole grain to finished bottled product in house. We have both a Christian Carl pot still/hybrid column, and a Vendome Pot Still. We've also toyed with the idea of buying brokered bourbon. However, you can be sure, that whatever we do, we'll be open and honest with the folks here (and everywhere) and not try to market a crazy story.

I'm not going to come on here to pimp my products (other than the intro) or act like I know everything. I do hope that I get to learn more about what you like and don't like and what motivates you with bourbon. I've been trying to read up in my free time, if there's such a thing as free time.

I'm a fan of forums in general, so I'm glad to be on board.


John Little
VP, Head Distiller
Smooth Ambler Spirits

08-03-2011, 18:19
Welcome aboard. It's always great when ya'll in the biz jump in. I hope you post often, and enjoy your time here. I was looking at your website, and it looks like you have a cool operation. Looks like you're doing everything in the process. Great! Particularly like hearing about your forays into Bourbon.

Again, Welcome!


PS: I think it would be cool to have regularly scheduled Distiller's Roundtables with all you distillery guys, in it's own special place on the forum, so you guys can banter back and forth on what you're doing, experiencing, trying, etc. Let us laymen be flies on the walls and listen in. And, ask a few dumb questions, too! :D

Bourbon Boiler
08-03-2011, 19:46
Thanks for stopping by, and I second Joe's comments about a distiller's area. I think a designated time on the chat would be really cool if the timing could be cooridinated and the gentlemen in the business were willing.

08-03-2011, 22:04
Welcome John! I agree on the roundtable thing too....could be a great chance for us newer guys to learn more about the entire process.

08-04-2011, 04:43
Hello John, and welcome. I debated posting this but figured if you didn't want feedback, you wouldn't have identified yourself. I have tried your gin at a tasting earlier this year, and frankly was a little disappointed- especially having grown up in WV I was excited to see a distiller had set up shop. If my memory is correct, the nose was pretty heavy and had some unique notes to it, the botanicals were a bit overpowering, and it lacked the smooth, clean taste I prefer in gin. Now, the tasting was straight spirits only, so if I ever find it again at a bar I would love to try it in a properly mixed martini. And don't worry, I still look forward to trying your whiskey products as they come out.

08-04-2011, 05:41
Welcome John! Always great to see another producer join the ranks. My father hails from "West-By-Gawd-Virginia", so I'll be eager to check out your distillates.

08-04-2011, 05:55
Happyhour: We love getting feedback. Negative feedback is always a bit disheartening because we pour so much time, energy, and money into the business. Two things I always try to think about: 1. Everyone blowing smoke up you butt doesn't make you better. 2. Half the people I know don't like Pepsi (or any other product). Making a product that's subject to personal tastes is always difficult.

Regarding your gin comments:
Thanks for commenting....it's valuable and appreciated. I'm not trying to argue only to give you my observations. We usually hear quite the opposite. We only bottle at 80 proof, which as you know is pretty light for gin. We also use vapor infusion, so our botanical load is also pretty light. Many reviews say that it's a nice entry into gin versus some other products because of these two points. But it points to my comments earlier about each consumer having their own experience. If we hear that it's too light for some people and that it's too heavy for others, we have a hard time adjusting to both of those view points versus if we only heard one side of that argument. Am I making sense or is this clear as mud?

Regarding a clean palate, I do agree that it's different. Our somewhat neutral base is our vodka, which is the only vodka I know of in the world that's made from a bourbon grain bill (60% corn, 20% wheat, 20% malted barley) so even after reaching 190 proof and some carbon filtration, our vodka (and therefore gin base) still has some of that sweetness from the grain. I think it's what draws many people to our gin. It reminds some experienced reviewers of Genever gin.

If you are ever in the area, please come see us at the distillery. We'd love to have you and hopefully, change your opinion of our product. If not, we'll make you a drink with somebody else's product.

Oh, I'd love to do the distiller's corner. Count me in!


08-04-2011, 05:57
Oh...I forgot to comment on the other posters. Thanks for the warm welcome. I'll try to add in when I think it's appropriate. But if I can answer any questions, please let me know.

Thanks folks!


08-05-2011, 03:06
John, I don't consider it arguing, I wouldn't be on this forum if I didn't like talking about liquor! interesting note about your base spirit, the guy running the tasting didn't have that info, and he is usually very through about that type if thing. I went back to see if I had tasting notes, and I only had a couple. It didn't seem to be overly heavy on the juniper, which fits into your comments; and I had that there was distinct banana on the nose. Now, keep in mind that for tasting purposes these samples were all at room temperature and undiluted; thus my comment that if I find it available at a restaurant or bar I will certainly give it a try in a martini. Unless something is truly horrible, I usually give it at least two tries before giving up on it. I would absolutely love to come visit sometime. Not that I will necessarily wait for it, but when do you anticipate having your aged whiskey ready?

08-05-2011, 06:29
Hey John- just checked out your website- the "where to buy" feature is fantastic! I am familiar with a number of the restaurants listed; the next time I visit one I will order up and let you know how the second impression is.

08-05-2011, 07:13
I think you are right about the banana nose. Some of our earlier batches had that nose to them. Not to say we weren't proud of them, because we were/are,

But just like all professionals, we strive to improve on every new batch we make and I think our product is vastly improved over the last year. I'd be curious as to what Batch that came from.

Thanks for commenting and hopefully, you'll give us a second change at winning you over.


EDIT, Forgot to add:
Our first batch of aged spirits came out last month and we sold most everything we had in 3 hours. Our next batch comes out in November or Decemeber....if it's ready. There are a few locations in DC that will get Batch One from our distributor, but I don't yet know who they are.

08-05-2011, 13:25
I'll see if I can find out the batch number. and I have a pretty good idea who might be getting the first run. keep me posted- feel free to email me- as to when it goes out so I can watch for it.

08-06-2011, 02:40
I have a bottle of John's bourbon. And it is a good young bourbon. A lot of mirco distilled bourbon is hard to tell it is bourbon. This is spot on.

08-23-2011, 10:49

You need to get some more of your product out to California! I would love to try it, but when I checked "where to buy" and the closest place is San Francisco. Any plans to expand into Los Angeles?

08-30-2011, 04:57
John, tasting update: tried your gin again in a martini, and it was perfectly acceptable. It didn't blow me away, but would order it again. Several others in my party ordered house specialty drinks made with it as well, and were pleased. Now, just have to find your aged whiskey!

09-05-2011, 08:24
Sorry for the delay guys.

We're working on LA now but as you know, the vodka market is flooded. So, until we have a steady stream of bourbon, people are hesitant to bring us in. But, we're still working on it.

Happy Hour: Glad to know you liked it. Just like everyone else, we are constantly trying to improve our products. Sounds like maybe we did!