It’s a fine time to be a Southerner. That’s a scientific fact and here’s the evidence: 1) Chicks dig bowties again 2) The craft distillery trend is in full swing below the Mason Dixon. Distilling laws are shifting in the South, and once again, hooch is flowing from the Appalachians. Take a trip into the hills and, with a little research, you’ll likely find an incorporated group of dudes and dudettes working up some fire water in copper stills. And there’s no hooch like Southern hooch. That’s another scientific fact. Yes sir, it’s a good time to be us.

Take Smooth Ambler Spirits. I stumbled across this small, but ambitious craft distiller in the Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia on my way up to Snowshoe Mountain Resort. The distillery is only a few years old but is already making waves in the “Spirit World.” Its Old Scout bourbon won the gold last year for best Artisan Merchant Bottled Whiskey from the American Distilling Institute, and went on to get high praise from Wine Spectator as well. You can’t find the stuff on the shelves because it sells out so quickly.

Smooth Ambler uses local mountain water, local grain, even local botanicals when crafting its bourbon, gin, and vodka. I like the “cut of their jib” so to speak, but I really like their Greenbrier Gin. If you’re a gin purist, you might find it a little too citrusy and fragrant for a straight martini, but it’s the bee’s knees in a gin and tonic, or even better in the Gin and Ginger that was recommended to me when I toured the distillery.

Gin lovers should check out my Gin and Ginger recipe below. Whiskey lovers should look for Smooth Ambler’s Old Scout 10, their highly anticipated 10-year old bourbon, hitting the shelves soon. And if you’re a lover of both gin and whiskey, get your hands on their Barrel-Aged Gin, which is born after Greenbrier Gin sits in Old Scout barrels for three months. The result is the best of both worlds, particularly when you use it as the base of classic cocktails. Ask your local liquor store to pick up Smooth Ambler. Or just make a trip to the distillery. Like I said, Snowshoe Mountain Resort is right around the corner. Liquor+Lift Served Mountain Biking=A Great Weekend.

Gin and Ginger

  • 2 oz Greenbrier Gin from Smooth Ambler
  • 4 oz Ginger ale (if you can find it, get small-batch Blenheim Ginger Ale, which is made in South Carolina, of course)
  • Juice of half a lime