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:
Redemption, Templeton 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, 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.
Redemption also sells a ‘high-rye’ bourbon.
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.
I believe George Dickel is honest about the provenance of their rye; however, they add their own touch by further charcoal filtering it in Tennessee, like the rest of their products.
FYI, the Dickel Rye label prominently states “Distilled in Lawrenceburg, IN” in the same font size as the rest of the back label.
I’m not sure it’s fair to compare a product that is 95% rye to one that is closer to the legal minimum of 51% rye with a high percentage of corn–I feel they are two very different products and that the green notes of the Redemption are not due solely to its age. I believe that tasting a 95% rye can be educational, and MGP rye is also interesting even if only because it’s behind so many products on the market now.
FYI, I believe Bulleit Rye is at least 4 years old and is only a few bucks more in my area. The label for Bulleit Rye also discloses that it’s produced in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
Well, maybe I’ll try it in a Manhattan. But I’ve been disappointed with it in an Old Fashioned and in a whiskey sour, for the same reason in both cases — that thin body. Not enough oomph for my taste. Thinner, too, than another LDI/MGP rye sitting on my shelf, Crater Lake, which has been my go to rye for an Old Fashioned (although I won’t try to replace it when it’s gone). I’m sipping the Redemption neat as I write. Not unenjoyable, but I’m starting to wonder about the person who told me I should try it … (The upside of all this — never thought I could taste these differences before. Who knew? Seems to me as though there’s something vaguely rubbery/chemical about that eucalyptus note too. Sheesh!)
My first experience with rye whiskey. I really liked it(so did my neighbor). Love single malts and good bourbon and was curious about ryes. Anxious to try others. Good whiskey for the price!
Tried it. I thought it tasted like someone tried to make whiskey out of lawn clippings. I’ll stick with “Dad’s Hat”, a Pennsylvania rye that I love.