January 30, 2014

Review: Redemption Barrel Proof Rye - Swill, A Two-Part Episode

We're nice people.  Perhaps too nice at times.  We've been accused of not saying a lot of bad things about booze here on SmokyBeast.  Honestly that's because we try to pick things to review that we like.  The whole point is to share personal favorites and recommend bottles for folks pick up and enjoy.

But we also worry about our readers from time to time.  If we only cover the good stuff, you may fall into some of the same near-misses, pitfalls, and outright disasters that have plagued our otherwise glorious journey through the world of whiskey.  Today's review is such a lesson.

Redemption Rye

We bought a bottle of Redemption High-Rye Bourbon to bring to a high-school reunion party.  We'd told a few people that we'd been writing a whiskey blog, so we figured we were expected to bring some brown liquor.  But, assuming people would do awful things to it, like drink it on the rocks or - God forbid - mix it with Coke, we went for the cheap stuff.  Browsing our local hoochery we saw the red screw-top bottle of Redemption on the shelf and figured it looked passable.  Maybe passsable enough for people to think we spent more than $23.99 for it.

Well, it was a hit.  The stuff was remarkably drinkable neat, with a little ice, or in a cocktail.  The bottle was cashed in under two hours.  A few people tried it and said things like "Oh you brought the good stuff!"  Mission accomplished.  We should pick up another bottle and do a proper review.  We'll owe it to Redemption after this one, since it ain't too pretty from here.

Limited Edition Barrel Proof


Based on the success of the uber-cheap bottle of High-Rye Bourbon, we were excited when Redemption released a limited edition barrel proof rye.  We picked up a bottle of Batch 1 as soon as it hit the shelves.  It's a 95% rye, 5% barley mashbill bottled at six years old at 120.8 proof.   It's distilled in the "Indiana Heartland" and bottled in Kentucky.  This means that it's distilled by LDI (Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana), the same producer that sells stock to Bulleit, Dickel, & High West.

Tasting Notes

Nose:  The first time we opened up the bottle it was rocket fuel.  So we dutifully gave it a few weeks to open up and air out.  The result:  rocket fuel.  It's like Mott's Apple Juice mixed with magic markers.  Super hot, acrid, we're already scared.

Palate:  It's got some good components, but they're just all stacking up wrong.  There some sweetness, but it comes off gross and sugary.  There's a ton of fire, which is not at all covered up or integrated with the other flavors.  There is some wood, but rather than maturity, it just goes straight to the bitter side of oaky.

Finish:  Just a throat-burning, gasping for air type of nasty.

Review

Redemption Barrel Proof Rye retails at $64.99.  For the money, this is some of the worst whiskey we've ever tasted.  It's like all the worst parts of rye put together into one bottle.  The flame and burn of barrel proof, without the big flavor.  The sour, bitter side of wood aging without the warm oak.  The bad fruit sweetness and spiciness of rye at full volume, without integrating together or even canceling each other out.  It's just not drinkable.

This is a lesson that it's not just the distillery that matters.  High West, Bulleit, & Dickel all make drinkable whiskey.  Hey, even the Redemption High-Rye Bourbon was pretty drinkable.  But sometimes the stars don't align.  Maybe it's a bad barrel, a poor spot in the warehouse, something off in the distillation process, who knows?  But just like how you can use the same recipe and make the same meal and one time it comes out perfect and the next it's inedible, the same can happen for whiskey.

So you've been warned!  This one is a big pass.  The first SmokyBeast "F".

Turning Lemons into Apple Pie!

Well $70 aside, stay tuned next time for the second part of "Swill - A Two-Part Episode" where we show you what to do with a bottle that you know you're not going to drink.  Here's a hint, it was invented by moonshiners and involves apples!

Sorry Redemption.  You did good with High-Rye, but we call 'em like we see 'em.

/SB


15 comments :

  1. You forgot the overwhelming dill pickle aftertaste, though your throat may have been on fire for too long to worry about any after taste.. Successfully landed in my top 5 worst whiskeys!!

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    1. The Flaming Pickles would be a good name for a band!

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  2. I agree with you on Redemption's standard products. MGP/LDI does a good job selling quality spirits for reasonable prices, but hearing you talk about their barrel strength offering will probably keep me enjoying their under $30 products. Thanks for the heads up!

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    1. Yes that would be advisable, and you're welcome!

      If you want to bump it up a notch in the rye department, Willett 4-Year (ballz-y barrel proof), Smooth Ambler 7-Year (smooth, mellow), or Colonel EH Taylor (good mix of smooth & spicy) are all more than worth the money in our opinion.

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    2. I love the Willett single barrel ryes. I have tried a 4 year-old barrel and a 4 year-old barrel, and they were both fantastic. I just scored another bottle of the 4 year juice. I had the Smooth Ambler at a tasting, and really liked it, but it is hard to find up here in Boston. I haven't grabbed a bottle of the E.H. Taylor, yet, but based on your recommendation that might be a place to look.

      My personal go-to for quality rye is High West Double Rye!

      Keep up the great blog, I always enjoy reading it.

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    3. Interesting that LDI also makes the Willett 4 yr and Smooth Ambler that you liked so much. It's all about barrel selection.

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    4. Agreed Ray. It's fascinating how products coming from the same distillery can be so very different. But there's no mistaking the taste. Head-to-head Willett 4-year against Redemption Barrel Proof and let us know what you think. The contract is striking.

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  3. It sounds harsh. I'll be very curious to hear how the apple pie treatment works out. Moonshiners swear by its ability to mask the foulest new make. Sounds like it will be put to the test. I like taking infused whiskey and making old fashioneds with it. Get good quality turbinado or raw sugar (halfway to brown sugar - but more cane flavor). Dissolve a spoon full of that sugar with a tablespoon of hot water. Then add some bitters, two shots of infused whiskey and ice. Stir and if it sings right - have two...

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    1. Josh you may be co-guinea pig'ing the apple pie rye! The old fashioned sounds great. I saved a little sample of the Redemption so we can A / B it before and after the infusion :).

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  4. Oddly enough I dared to try batch #2 today.. And even more odd is the fact that it was fantastic.. Go figure

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    1. Cool, we'll try and find a taste of batch 2!

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  5. I picked up a bottle from Batch #3 recently and I'm completely smitten with it - planning to pick up a backup bottle or two ASAP. The store I bought it from has a bottle from Batch #1 open in their tasting library, so after reading this review I'll have to try that the next time I'm there to see if there's some serious batch variation going on or if I think you've just lost your mind(s)!

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    1. It's LDI rye, so batch variation could indeed be as important as buying the same whiskey under a different label. Let us know what you discover! Cheers!

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  6. I suppose you don't drink many cask strength ryes (not that there are too many available). A barrel-proof rye is something else...
    Whiskey Advocate rated this Redemption effort as one of the best of 2014.
    I just bought it and find it fascinating.
    The alcohol is potent, but not as bad as some others I've learned from (whistlepig the boss hog, lost spirits polynesian, aberlour a'bunadh), but you need to be prepared.
    It's a strange rye, to be sure. The thing that most comes to mind is the relative absence of caraway at the front. It certainly approaches as time creeps on (along with the burn), but I notice a slight woody char, sweet caramel, and some copper to finish.
    Not my favorite rye (the whistlepig boss hog) but a really nice one and much cheaper than my favorite, so I don't feel bad using it to mix in certain drinks (generally an old fashioned, but you never know).

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    1. Willett, Smooth Ambler (yes both also LDI), Tom Handy, trying to think of what other barrel proof rye's we've tried. Loved all of those, this one was not our cup of tea. Neither is Boss Hog or any of the Pigs. But hey, go crazy, drink what you love and love what you drink. Cheers thanks for reading! /SB

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