A truly excellent whiskey bottled at the right time for its high points on aging and taste profile rather than waiting for an arbitrary older age to command more money at the price of quality.
Notes: This is another bourbon brought to market by David Schmier of Dynamic Beverages who brought us the Redemption Rye and Bourbon series. The Redemption line was sold off and now David bottles the Dead Wood Series of Bourbon and Rye. The ambassador bourbon represents a new venture in a higher-end direction.
The bourbon itself is sourced from MGP in Indiana and is following a number of other remarkable and very noteworthy Bourbons actually that Mr. Schmier has found in the long rows and archive that make MGP an overlooked treasure- it represents a beautiful merchant bottling of Bourbon. The barrel selected for this bottling represents some of the finer Bourbons available on the open market for bottling. The Ambassador is a straight Bourbon whiskey at barrel proof (107.6 (or 53.3 %) and 12 years old, which in my opinion is where the sweet spot for a lot of bourbons is. Bourbon can get very woody beyond 12 to 15 years old depending on where it is stored and under what conditions.
The production run of this bourbon is only 600 bottles ( best guess estimate puts this at about a four-barrel batch) making it far rarer than Pappy Winkle 23-year-old Bourbon. If you want a bottle of this you better grab one now while you can as availability is extremely limited.
Appearance: Clear, lovely mahogany red color, promising a lovely aging process has taken place before bottling.
First Impression: Fantastic bouquet reflecting a bottle at the peak of aging. Mint, vanilla, cinnamon, pipe tobacco, hints of corn sweetness, with some spiciness of other grains. The bouquet of this whiskey is well integrated, indeed exciting in a Pavlovian way, to aficionados of bourbon as a delightful set of aromas holding much promise.
Taste: Wonderful mint, toffee, and vanilla notes with a nice background of char, tobacco, and a lovely caramel toffee with hints of spice finish to drying wood. Earthy notes of mushroom, alkali, and loam almost from an interesting backdrop to the more aromatic notes. Slightly oaky medium-long finish with aromatic notes that linger.
Drinks: Makes a beautiful Manhattan using a drier vermouth, tends to get a touch buried and lose nuance with Antica. Straight up with a splash of water or ice opens up more vanilla notes and tones it back a bit. Makes a leaner Old Fashioned than some, but so subtle.
Bottle: Very nice heavy clear glass with a solid clear somewhat angled punt to the bottom. Pleasing cylindrical shape with gently angled shoulder leading to a medium-short neck and sealed with a dark blue sealing wax reminiscent of many other higher-end bottlings. Relatively simple cream-colored label with an eagle almost in a watermark in the background. Simple and elegant. Fabric tab/ribbon is wide and a little long making it easy to open without resorting to sharp objects or violence although it takes dry hands and some persistence to get the damn thing started.
Other: More accessible and far cheaper than a Pappy product. While maybe not as rich and cushy a bourbon as some older whiskeys or indeed some younger whiskies such as Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, I enjoy the well-crafted leanness of it. Much like a vintage sports car, over a sedan – it may be lean in the body a bit but that allows what it has to shine through.
Final Thoughts: While the retail on this bottle is rather high on the MSRP ( the price the manufacturer suggests as a retail price) it is a downright bargain compared to the gray market prices fetched for bottlings comparable in quality, and in a way helps level the playing field where a small number of ( to put it nicely) speculators can scalp everyone else for bottles.
Website: Sadly there is no website for Proof and Wood Ventures. You can, however, find their bottles on the web at various places.