Remus Repeal Reserve Series II

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. Please consider it disclosed. I’d like to thank the folks at Gregory + Vine for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. As always, all thoughts are just my opinion.

In honor of last year’s initial release of Series 1 of Remus Repeal Reserve, produced by MGP in Indiana, I took an in-depth look at the namesake of the brand, George Remus. I just reread it and it’s pretty good, if I do say so myself. In fact, I think I did such a good job that I’m not going to go over the whole thing again. I even did some research in the archives of the New York Times. If you don’t have any inclination to go read last year’s here is the gist. They named this whiskey after George Remus: a pharmacist, a bootlegger, lawyer and a murderer.

This year, I thought I would take a little less time on the namesake and the story and spend a little more time on the whiskey. Namely, how is Series II different than Series I?

There are a few differences you can see right away from the outside of the bottle. Of course, there is the proof. Series I was 94° proof, while Series II has received a healthy proof bump up to 100° proof. The second difference is the makeup of the blend and the age of the components. Both of these use the same two of MGP’s bourbon mashbills: one is listed as “36% Rye” and the MGP Bourbon Product Guide says this one is made up of 60% Corn, 36% Rye and 4% Barley Malt, and the second is listed as “21% Rye” and is composed of 75% Corn, 21% Rye and 4% Barley Malt. 2017’s Series I was made of 50% 12-year-old “21% Rye”, 35% 11-year-old “21% Rye”, 15% 11- year-old “36% Rye.” 2018’s Series II contains four parts. It is 15% 11-year-old “21% Rye,” 50% 10-year-old “21% Rye,” 10% 11-year-old “36% Rye,” and 25% 10-year-old “36% Rye.” This means that the Series II is younger (10 years old in 2018 vs 11 years old in 2017) but has a higher percentage of the higher rye bourbon in the blend (35% in 2018 vs 15% in 2017).

We’ll get into the differences inside the bottle in a minute, but first let’s take a look at what this' year’s release tastes like.

Remus Repeal Reserve Series II

Purchase Info: This review sample was provided by Gregory + Vine for the purposes of this review. Suggested retail price is $84.99. The press release states that “George Remus is currently available in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin.”

Details: 50% ABV. The blend is composed of: 15% 11-year-old “21% Rye,” 50% 10-year-old “21% Rye,” 10% 11-year-old “36% Rye,” and 25% 10-year-old “36% Rye.”

Nose: Crisp apple, black pepper, cinnamon candies and old, weathered wood.

Mouth: Spicy and warm in the mouth with a nice thick mouthfeel. Black pepper, baking spices, honey and a bit of fruit as it moves back.

Finish: Long and warm. Lingering apple, oak, baking spice and brown sugar.

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Thoughts: Once again this is a delicious bourbon. It’s hard to imagine that it could be otherwise when you consider the vast stocks of bourbon that are sitting in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. This is rich and thick and coats the mouth.

So, now what about those differences Inside the bottle? The first thing you notice is that 2017 is much richer on the nose. Both have a lot of spice, but 2018 hits you with more fruit and more sweetness. On the palate where 2017 was dry, 2018 is much sweeter. It has a thicker mouthfeel and just feels more complicated. Continuing on the theme, the finish of 2018 is longer and sweeter than that of 2017. Overall, I’d say that though both of these are good bourbons, I much prefer 2018’s Series II. It is much more in line with this Bourbon Guy’s tastes.


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Rossville Union Barrel Proof Rye Whiskey

I'm generally not a proof-chaser. 100 proof is about my limit for whiskey before I stop trying to drink it neat and start adding water or a small piece of ice to it. I like my whiskey to be comforting, and I don't find that burning my tongue on alcohol is all that comforting. 

That isn't to say that I dislike high proof whiskeys. I usually like them quite a bit. I just also usually dilute them a little. Notice the use of the word usually there? That's because every once in a while a whiskey hides it's proof a bit. It's got some bite and burn to it, but not enough to make you want to dilute it too much. Which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I like to drink whiskey neat when I can so that's good. But if it drinks like a whiskey 20 proof points lower...that could make for a rough next morning if you aren't careful.

Rossville Union Barrel Proof Rye Whiskey

Purchase Info: $69.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN.

Details: 56.3% ABV. A blend of the MGP 95% rye and the MGP 51% Rye mashbills aged 5-6 years (according to their PR firm). Made from a batch of 83 barrels.

Nose: Spearmint, pipe tobacco, oak. 

Mouth: Spicy with nutmeg, clove, and honey sweetness. Spearmint as it moves back. 

Finish: Long and warm. Spearmint, citrus, and pipe tobacco. 

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Thoughts: I like this. I really like this. When neat, this is an exceedingly drinkable whiskey for a 112° proof. There is burn, but I've had the same in whiskeys of a lower proof. How does this compare to the 94° proof version? About how you'd expect. The 94° proof expression is more approachable than the Barrel Proof. They both have a similar backbone to them. I find that the influence of the 95% rye is a bit more pronounced in the 112° proof. But that's ok. I'm a big fan of those flavors, so that doesn't bother me in the least. If you are a fan of MGP ryes, I highly recommend giving this one a shot.


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Rossville Union Master Crafted Rye Whiskey

We all know that MGP makes a good chunk of the rye whiskey on the market. And I don't know about you, but I've always loved that 95% Rye, no matter who is bottling it. 

When it was first announced that MGP was buying the Remus brand and bringing it in-house, I wondered how they planned on negotiating the fact that they were basically competing with their clients. But when I tasted it, I knew. They were going to put out a solid product that didn't have the "middle-man markup" in the price. Which made me curious if they were going to try a rye. 

Like I said above, the MGP style 95% rye was the first rye I fell in love with. Not the first that I'd had, but the first that I'd loved. And I was excited when I learned they were going to start producing multiple styles of rye whiskey a few years ago. These days in addition to their famous 95% rye/5% barley mash whiskey, they also produce a 51% rye/49% barley whiskey (named 49% barley in their product list) and a 51% rye/45% corn/4% barley one (named 51% rye in the product list). 

So how will they stand out from a market full of MGP rye that isn't being bottled by them? Easy. Combine more than one of their ryes, call it Rossville Union, and sell that. So what is Rossville Union Rye? It is a blend (mingling) of the 95% rye and the 51% rye mashbills that have been aged for 5-6 years. Sounds interesting to me, let's give it a shot. 

Rossville Union Master Crafted Rye Whiskey

Purchase Info: $39.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN.

Details: 47% ABV. A blend of the MGP 95% rye and the MGP 51% Rye mashbills aged 5-6 years (according to their PR firm).

Nose: Bubblegum, spearmint, pencil shavings, and fleeting hints of dill. 

Mouth: Good rye spice. Baking spice, spearmint, and a light white sugar sweetness.

Finish: Medium length and warm. Lingering notes of spearmint and baking spices. 

Thoughts: Well, they did it. This is both similar to and very different from the 95% Rye that everyone else and their uncle bottles. I like it a lot. It has a good mouthfeel and decent spice. But not too much spice. Very approachable. I'd buy another bottle. 


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Bulleit Rye: Revisited

It has been two thousand, one hundred, thirty-seven days since I last published a review of Bulleit Rye. It was so long ago that I was still writing posts about the new additions to my whiskey stash (often without reviews). It was my sixth ever official post (fifteenth overall) and only the third instance of the hand-drawn review symbols that have become a mainstay of the site ever since. It was also the first review to earn a "love" rating. Back then I had this to say about it: 

"For the price of this whiskey, there is no reason for it to not always be on your shelf. It works great in cocktails and I love to drink it neat. Inexpensive, tasty and versatile."

So almost 6 years ago, I thought that this was the bee's knees. The best rye I'd had. And even at that early date, I'd had quite a few different ryes. Something about that 95% rye mash bill made me very happy. Even now, I tend to prefer the MGP Indiana-style rye over all others. Kentucky Ryes are just spicy bourbon. Canadian 100% ryes can be good, but these days it feels like they are either under-proofed or overpriced. I haven't had enough of the "Rye Mash with Malted Rye" style 100% Rye to make a firm judgment, but the ones I've had so far have been more interesting than good.

It is safe to say that over the years, this has been the most common rye to hit my shelves. I use it in cocktails, I drink it neat, and I use it in blending experiments (which only makes sense since it was originally developed as a component of a blended whiskey). But one thing I haven't done for almost 6 years is sit down and do a thoughtful tasting of it. I'm curious how my palate has shifted in the intervening years.

Bulleit Rye

Purchase Info: $24.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Viking Liquor Barrel, Prior Lake, MN

Details: MGP distilled. 95% Rye Mash. 45% ABV.

Nose: Mint, cherry, and pipe tobacco. 

Mouth: Spicy with mint, dill, cherry, and pipe tobacco.

Finish:  Medium length with lingering spice, mint, and cherry. 

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Thoughts: This is the first Revisited whiskey that I have downgraded the rating on. It's not that I like it any less than I did six years ago, I've just raised the bar for those that I "love." It's interesting how little the notes on this whiskey have changed for me. I still get cherry and pipe tobacco. A combination, it is safe to say, I have never gotten on another whiskey. Yet I got it here almost 6 years apart. That is a testament to the prowess of both MGP and Diageo. I really like this one. And honestly, I'll repeat my message from six years ago, tortured grammar and all: "For the price of this whiskey, there is no reason for it to not always be on your shelf."


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Bottom-Shelf Bourbon Brackets 2018: The Championship Rounds

Well, it's finally here. The championship rounds. This year was an interesting one for me on a couple of levels. For one, it was the first year that had guest judges. I have an idea that I may expand it further next year. This feels like it could be a fun party game for whiskey folk, provided the sips are restricted and everyone has a driver. Secondly, it is also the first year that I didn't restrict the competition to bourbon. I included corn whiskey and rye whiskey and sort of expected that corn would fold and rye would reign supreme. I was sorta right on the corn whiskey, it was a little too delicate to win against the flavorful rye, but it was no pushover. 

So now here we are. We are at the Last Four (Final Four being a registered trademark of a very litigious entity, there is no way I will use those two words together in a bracket post...): Old Grand Dad Bonded vs Two Stars and Old Forester vs Ezra Brooks Rye. Three bourbons and a rye. Let's see if rye reigns supreme or if bourbon can hold on to the odds. 

Division 1, Round 2: Two Stars (A) vs Old Grand-Dad Bonded (B)

Nose: Whiskey A is drier with more grain present while whiskey B is sweeter but shows a bit more alcohol. Winner: Draw.

Mouth: Whiskey B is sweeter but also shows a lot more grain notes. Whiskey A is more of a well-integrated whole, though it is a tad more delicate. Winner Whiskey A.

Finish: The finish on Whiskey A is a bit harsher and drier. Whiskey B is really good though and it has no obvious plusses or minuses to it.Winner Whiskey B. 

Thoughts: I'd say that Whiskey B wins this one on the strength of a better mouthfeel and a much tastier finish. Old Grand-Dad Bonded is moving on. 

Division 2, Round 2: Ezra Brooks Rye (A) vs Old Forester (B)

Nose: Whiskey A has a spicy ginger note while Whiskey B is pretty generic with sweet caramel.  Winner: Whiskey A.

Mouth: Whiskey A is spicy and fun but a bit thin. Whiskey B is sweet and spicy with a nice mouthfeel. It is close but the Winner is Whiskey A

Finish: Whiskey A shows ginger and citrus while Whiskey B is sweet and fruity. This comes down to personal taste. Winner: Whiskey A.

Thoughts: This one is tough. I adore the fun aspects of Whiskey A. I think it is bright and vibrant and I'm digging the citrus notes. On the other hand, I really like the sweet flavors, the nice mouthfeel, and the fruity finish of Whiskey B. Gun to my head? Winner: Ezra Brooks Rye. 

Championship Round: Old Grand-Dad Bonded (A) vs Ezra Brooks Rye (B)

Nose: Whiskey B is a spicy soda, Whiskey A is a dusty rickhouse. Winner: Draw.

Mouth: Whiskey A is sweet with a lovely mouthfeel. Whiskey B is spicy with a ginger ale flavor. Winner: Draw

Finish: Whiskey A is long with more sweetness. Whiskey B is also long, but is spicy. Winner: Draw.

Thoughts: Sometimes the tasting notes of bloggers make it look like we value the individual parts of a whiskey more than the whole. Though these two whiskeys are different, I liked them both, just in different ways. I like the spiciness of Whiskey B and I like the lovely mouthfeel of Whiskey A. There was a draw on every indiviual metric. And, though it was really close, when taken as a whole the Winner is Old Grand-Dad Bonded. 

Lessons learned

So was I shocked by anything this year? Not really. I was surprised that Old Forester beat Four Roses for every participant, but not enough to call it shocking. I was mildly surprised that a four seed beat a one seed, but when you notice that it is rye vs corn whiskey it is less surprising. Going into the final rounds I had guessed that Old Forester could very possibly be my winner, but wasn't shocked that a rye whiskey beat a bourbon. Even if it was only two years old.

Overall, I thought that there could very possibly be five winners in the initial grouping. I wouldn't have been surprised at any of Old Grand-Dad, Old Forester, Four Roses, Ezra Brooks and I thought that Mellow Corn had an outside shot. Because I worried that the seeding worked against them I went ahead and tried an alternate seeding. I put all the bourbon on one side and matched corn vs corn and rye vs rye on the other. Ezra Brooks beat Old Overholt and Mellow Corn defeated Hirsch, with Ezra Brooks rye still advancing to the finals. On the Bourbon side, Old Grand Dad beat Four Roses on the strength of a good mouthfeel and Old Forester beat Two Stars. Old Grand Dad then defeated Old Forester and advanced to the finals where the result was the same. Overall, I'm satisfied that the best whiskey (for my palate)won.


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