Sophisticated moonshine sounds like an oxymoron; but at their microdistillery in rural West Virginia, Tag Galyean and John Little are crafting smooth, flavorful “white dog,” the spirited moniker for clear, unaged whiskey. Smooth Ambler is part of a growing trend of small-batch distillers making artisanal, grain-to-table spirits: Its white whiskey is made from corn, with hints of wheat and barley, and the grains are milled onsite and blended with local, limestone-filtered water. Every bottle is batch-labeled, signed and dated by hand. Little says they set out to make Bourbon, but when they tasted the white dog, “we found the grain, the nose and the sweetness from the corn very, very interesting.” And don’t be fooled by its clear appearance. White whiskey is not a neutral spirit. This dog can bite.
In addition to Smooth Ambler’s White Whiskey release, other products of note have popped up in the white whiskey category. Look out for Hudson New York Corn Whiskey (also known as white dog, made from 100% New York corn) from Tuthilltown Distillery and White Dog Whiskey (made from 100% malted barley) from Portland’s House Spirits’. They’re surprisingly drinkable neat, but also make a great base for cocktails, like this one:
West Virginia Hound
Recipe courtesy of David Ortiz, Smooth Ambler’s Florida brand ambassador and bartender at Club 50 at the Viceroy Hotel in Miami.
2 ounces Smooth Ambler Exceptional White Whiskey
¾ ounces simple syrup (or 1 tablespoon sugar)
2 cucumber slices
1 bunch of cilantro
Muddle all ingredients together. Add ice and shake vigorously. Double strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a cilantro leaf and cucumber slice.