West Virginia Executive Summer 2014 - Page 99

[ happy hour ] Going Down Smooth As a grain-to-glass distillery, Smooth Ambler Spirits, located in Maxwelton, WV, combines local mountain water, regionally sourced corn and wheat and clean air in an ideal climate to produce fine, handcrafted vodka, gin and whiskey. “We handselect our grains, bring them to the distillery whole and grind them ourselves,” explains John Little, vice president and head distiller. “Then, the spent grain, or stillage, is picked up by a local farmer and fed to his livestock.” This cyclic process allows Smooth Ambler to maintain a hands-on approach and preserve relationships with their suppliers. By Dawn Nolan John Little and Tag Galyean, owners of Smooth Ambler Spirits. Little founded Smooth Ambler in 2009 alongside his father-in-law, renowned designer Tinsley Azariah Galyean, Jr., or Tag for short. “We had a mission,” Little states. “We wanted to create a business that took advantage of the resources of our location—including the wonderful people—and promote that business worldwide. We looked at all sorts of ideas, and then Tag found an article in Time magazine about the craft distilling industry.” The prospective business venture seemed to fit Galyean’s criteria, too. “My desire was to produce a world-class consumer product in West Virginia that is made by West Virginians and sell it globally with lots of prestige and visibility for West Virginia, make a profit, employ good local folks and have a nice clubhouse where I could hang out with a younger generation,” he explains. “Distilling and aging legal spirits of quality became the most credible choice.” Deciding to plant their roots in Greenbrier County was also an easy choice. “As our national director of Sales and Marketing, John Foster, is fond of saying, ‘We didn’t choose West Virginia, it chose us,’” says Little. “This is where we live. We want the people of the community—and West Virginia as a whole—to be proud of what we are doing here.” As for the name, it pays homage to Galyean’s father. “Dad saw his first motorcar in Low Gap, NC when he was 16,” he says. “At that time, a premium ride was a smooth ambling horse. During his early years in the ExEdge car business, manufacturers were trying to create reliable Whiskey or whisky? The comfort that would replace spelling is the ambling standard with determined by a smooth motorcar ride. It geographical took a while, and the roads location. The U.S. and Ireland were poor. To me, the term spell it whiskey should be personified, and while whisky Dad in the middle of the last comes from century was a true smooth Scotland, Canada or Japan. ambler. His 1950s picture greets you when you enter Source: www. the visitors’ side of the dis- thekitchn.com tillery. I think his watching over this adventure helps us make good decisions every day with humor and grace. Also, Mother was a smooth ambler, too, and I have always fancied a good horse.” In preparation for their launch, the men attended workshops through Michigan State University’s Artisan Distilling Program, received first-hand experience at a friend’s distillery in Spokane, WA and www.wvexecutive.com summer 2014 99