By Tina Alvey
Fresh off a finalist spot in the national Good Food Awards competition, Greenbrier County’s Smooth Ambler Spirits is continuing to expand its product line and build on its past success.
The Maxwelton distillery’s Greenbrier Gin was one of 184 finalists chosen from nearly 1,400 entries in the 2012 Good Food Awards contest, which wrapped up last month in San Francisco.
“Even though we didn’t win, it’s quite an accomplishment to be a finalist in that competition,” said John Foster, Smooth Ambler’s director of sales. “It was exciting to be selected. It’s just further testimony that we do know what we’re doing at Smooth Ambler.”
Greenbrier Gin won a place on Wine Enthusiast’s “Top 50 for 2012” list as well.
The company and its Old Scout products also won two awards at the American Distilling Institute’s conference in 2012, taking Best of Class as an Artisan Merchant Bottler and winning a Gold Medal for Whiskey, Best of Category: Artisan Merchant Bottled Whiskey.
Foster said the company has plans to launch its own whiskey this summer, as well as unveil a new sourced 10-year-old bourbon that will join Smooth Ambler’s Old Scout line, which now includes both Old Scout Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Old Scout Rye, the latter of which was introduced in 2012.
Another product introduced last year is Barrel Aged Gin, the initial offering in Smooth Ambler’s Stillhouse Collection.
The company’s website explains that Barrel Aged Gin uses Greenbrier Gin as the base distillate, with half aged in new bourbon barrels and the other half in used Old Scout bourbon barrels for three months.
That aging process is time-tested, Foster said, noting that in colonial times, the British needed to come up with a means of getting gin to the empire’s outposts in India.
“Necessity is always the mother of invention,” Foster stated. “They decided to ship it in old rum or bourbon barrels, and when gin is sealed in those barrels for months, it takes on a nice blond color and unique caramel flavors.”
He added, “You can only use a barrel for bourbon once. That means we have a steady supply of used bourbon barrels, so we decided to age some gin. Turns out, it’s fabulous.”
In fact, the Barrel Aged Gin is now second in popularity only to Smooth Ambler’s whiskeys, Foster said. “It’s neck-and-neck with our Greenbrier Gin,” he noted.
Foster also provided a heads-up for an upcoming event at Smooth Ambler — the second edition of “Bourbon 101,” an evening in late March or early April devoted to dinner, cocktails and the history of American bourbon production.
“We’ll have tastings right out of the barrel,” Foster said, noting the first Bourbon 101 event was quickly sold out. The Smooth Ambler team hopes to replicate the success of that initial foray.
A firm date for Bourbon 101 will be announced later.
For more information on Smooth Ambler Spirits, visit www.smoothambler.com or call 304-497-3123.
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