May 26, 2014
Despite claims to be “redeeming” rye from its lost heritage by handcrafting a 95% rye to convince the world of rye whisky’s value, this and an embarrassing multitude of other bottled ryes are simply labels slapped on bulk rye produced at LDI (now MGP). Aside from barrel maturation differences, bottling strengths, and minor differences in age, these ryes are all basically the same thing:
Templeton Rye, Redemption Rye, Bulleit Rye, Willet Rye (until they start releasing whisky from their new KBD plant), High West (at least they blend it skillfully), George Dickel Rye (uncomfirmed), Angel’s Envy Rye (at least they finish it in rum barrels), and a host of other small-time brands that have not come clean about their origins.
Now, I like a good story as much as the next whisky drinker, but the idea of two bottles with different labels (and different prices) containing basically the same juice and with entirely different back-stories on the label just gives me an uneasy feeling. But, that’s marketing for you.
This bottle is from Batch 104 (I’m guessing that’s a Redemption batch number, not an LDI batch!), bottle #1802, bottled at a respectable 46% ABV. Like all the ryes above, this is a mash of 95% rye with 5% malted barley aged in new charred oak for less than 4 years. The “less than” is a legal definition for any straight rye whiskey aged between 2 and 4 years. The malted barley, if you’re wondering, is in there to kickstart fermentation, and is usually present in bourbons too, regardless of their mashbills.
Nose: Eucalpytus, which shows up sometimes in young rye. Deep underneath there is a small cache of mulling spices (cinnamon, clove) and something that might be caraway. Not too much nose tickle, even at 46% ABV.
Palate: Thin body. Minty. The rye grain is lively, with a little sweet maltiness. Mostly, though, it’s eucalyptus and cinnamon. Very ‘smooth’, though, with very little tongue burn.
Finish: Medium-short. Some greener vegetal notes; grassy. Caraway again, fading with a hint of fresh cherries and almond extract. Not bitter.
With Water: Water adds more nose tickle than I like. I don’t see any reason to add water to this.
Overall: While it’s an unobjectionable sip, I think the value of young LDI/MGP rye like this is to serve as the brown spirits in classic American cocktails. There are much more complex ryes for sipping (Rittenhouse 100 for one), and the green notes betray Redemption’s youth. Buy it to drink a glass straight, and then mix up some Manhattans with the rest. I’ve marked this ‘Not Recommended’, though, because you’re really better off hunting down some Rittenhouse, or springing for a clever High West blend. However, if you just want some rye to toss in cocktails, this will suffice.