Review: Redemption Barrel Proof Whiskies

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Photo courtesy of Redemption Whiskey

Back in the fall of 2017, Redemption Whiskey released a trio of barrel proof whiskies consisting of two bourbons and a rye.  These are the same MGP-distilled whiskies used in Redemption’s core line, but carry higher age statements of 9 and 10 years.  They have been ‘minimally filtered’ and are available for $99.99.  Let’s take a look…

REDEMPTION BARREL PROOF 9-YEAR-OLD BOURBON

Bottled at 108.2 proof, Redemption’s Barrel Proof Bourbon comes from a mash bill of 76% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley.  The aromas are packed pretty tight, featuring hints of roasted corn, minerals, maple syrup and a sprinkling of leather.  On the palate, a nice array of flavors present themselves in a bold way, including hints of caramel corn, spice cake, as well as a touch of flint and sweet oak.  The warming finish sticks around for a while.  I don’t think water is needed for this one.  It doesn’t come across as “hot.” Rather, it’s a great example of a barrel proof whiskey whose flavors are well rounded and best enjoyed as is.  8.5/10

REDEMPTION BARREL PROOF 10-YEAR-OLD HIGH-RYE BOURBON

Slightly older is the 10-year-old High-Rye bourbon, with a mash bill of 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley.  On the nose, the extra rye is evident as we find a boost in the spice department.  Hints of baking spices abound.    In addition, slightly darker caramel, vanilla bean and espresso notes are present.  Taste-wise, big flavors paint the picture: Mexican chocolate, nutmeg, caramel, and sweet oak.  The finish is long and chest-warming, with lingering hints of dark chocolate-covered toasted almonds and toffee.  Like the 9-year-old bourbon, this expression, bottled at 114.8 proof, doesn’t need any water.  It’s a well made whiskey, that’s for sure.  9/10

REDEMPTION BARREL PROOF 10-YEAR-OLD RYE WHISKEY

Last but not least, Redemption’s 10-year-old rye whiskey features a familiar MGP mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley.  It’s bottled at 116.2 proof.  The nose leans a bit towards the herbal, with hints basil and fennel sitting alongside fresh ginger and caramel.  The palate closely follows the nose.  More basil and dill at first, punctuated by dark chocolate, vanilla cream and dark toffee.  Oak spice and cigar box develop soon afterwards.  The finish is long and a touch dry, as expected, with hints baking spices, red pepper flakes and toffee.  A wonderfully aged rye whiskey that balances spice, herbs, and sweetness.  8.5/10

Thanks to Redemption Whiskey for the samples.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Book Review: Tom Acitelli’s “Whiskey Business”

What if I told you Maker’s Mark was the first modern craft distillery?

It’s an idea author Tom Acitelli explores in his book, “Whiskey Business: How Small-Batch Distillers are Transforming American Spirits.”

The big guys versus the little guys.  David versus Goliath.  We’ve seen small craft distillers grow from nothing to becoming household names.  See Maker’s Mark.  When it was founded in 1953, Maker’s Mark had to contend with the likes of Jim Beam and other giants in the bourbon industry.  Eventually, by sticking to its guns (and with some help from a Wall Street Journal article), Maker’s Mark saw success.

The Little Engine that Could might best describe the uphill journey Bill Samuels and other craft distillers in the country faced.  Whether it be bourbon, beer, or brandy, roughly the same difficulties were faced by the small craft companies.  One thing these craft distillers had to do was stand out in the crowd.  Acitelli writes about the experimentation and advancements some of these companies explored, and whether or not they worked.

Acitelli tells this story in a linear fashion, starting with the founding of Maker’s Mark in 1953 and weaving from one craft distiller/brewer’s story to another until we arrive to the present.  We have a history book that doesn’t read like a history book.  It’s one that puts the reader right in the middle of the struggles and successes of the book’s “characters.”

“Whiskey Business” is an interesting read, one of American spirits history told through the eyes of small craft distillers.  How can you not want to learn about that?

ChicagoReviewPress.com

Thanks to the Chicago Review Press for the review copy.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Highland Park The Dark Single Malt Whisky

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The first of two themed special edition releases from Highland Park, The Dark is a 17-year-old single malt whisky that matured exclusively in European oak sherry-seasoned butts.  The 28,000 bottle release is bottled at a hearty 52.9% ABV and can be found for around $250.

The Dark takes inspiration from the winter solstice on Orkney.  Highland Park’s follow-up release, The Light, focuses on the contrasting spring season.  The jet black bespoke bottle is a departure from Highland Park’s recent bottle rebranding.  The tall bottle features an embossed dragon on the front and comes in a black oak box.  Highland Park’s Viking and Nordic heritage is certainly on display here.

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Highland Park is generally known for its use of American and European oak sherry casks.  Recent releases saw the distillery play with different casks for their maturation, including bourbon and port.  As I mentioned earlier, The Dark uses only European Sherry-seasoned oak casks, which deliver more spice notes compared to American sherry oak casks.

I recently hosted Highland Park Global Brand Ambassador Martin Markvardsen on my Youtube channel for a Highland Park whisky tasting, which included Magnus, Valkyrie, Full Volume, Highland Park 18-year-old, and The Dark.  It was interesting to compare and contrast The Dark and the 17-year-old Full Volume, which was matured exclusively in first fill ex-bourbon casks.  Both feature the same distillate and are the same age, leaving the cask types as the only variable (painting in broad strokes here).  Full Volume’s bourbon cask maturation really showcases those bourbon notes of vanilla and tropical fruit, where The Dark leans in the dried fruit and smoky direction.  You can see that video below:

I don’t generally mention color in my reviews unless the whisky is all natural and free of caramel coloring.  That’s the case with Highland Park.  They don’t add any coloring to their whiskies.  The Dark is a beautiful copper color.  Those sherry casks contribute that slight red tinge.  A slow swirl around reveals legs that stick around for days.

The nose is bold but rounded, with hints of fruit cake, spice, heather and an Oloroso sherry nuttiness.  A slight tinge of smoked oak sits in the background.  On the palate, honey and dried fruit kick things off.  Cinnamon and cardamon develop soon afterwards, followed by vanilla pod and cognac-soaked fruitcake.  That wonderful Orkney island heathery peat comes in on the back palate, along with charred old oak and  a touch of smoke.  The fruity and slightly smoky finish lasts for days.  Put the water away.  The Dark is best enjoyed neat.

Highland Park is one of my favorite distilleries.  I’ve found myself thoroughly enjoying every one of their releases.  Not one has disappointed me, and I obviously enjoy some Highland Park whiskies more than others.  This one sits near the top of that list, along with their 18-year-old, 25-year-old and Odin releases.  The Dark is a perfect winter whisky, nicely balancing those dark, heavy dried fruit notes with spice and smoke.  I can’t wait to compare this to the upcoming The Light bottling.  By the way, the finish is still around two hours after tasting.  Time for another glass… 9/10

highlandparkwhisky.com

Thanks to Highland Park for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.