Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Redemption Whiskey. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
When Redemption launched its line of rye whiskey back in 2010, they situated themselves as part of a revivalist movement for American rye whiskey. Rye’s popularity with American drinkers had been on the rise ever since its first production in the colonies. That came to an end, however, when Prohibition thoroughly scrambled US drinking culture.
After the Volstead Act was substantively undone in 1933, rye was faced with a domestic competitor in bourbon as well as a drinking public that was substantially more open to consuming the glut of spirits being imported to fill the distilling void left by Prohibition. Rye fared poorly in this environment, declining in popularity and relegated to the status of a historical curiosity (except, of course, in Canada where it continued and continues to flourish free from the strictures of Prohibition).
This would all come as a shock to anyone entering an American liquor store for the first time in 2022. In the past decade, rye has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity among both mixologists and consumers, and multiple options are now available at most distributors. While a return to the 19th century glory days may not be likely, distinctly spicy rye whiskey has found dedicated admirers. It seems safe to count the braintrust of Deustch Family Wine & Spirits among rye’s admirers as demonstrated by their acquisition and subsequent re-brand of Redemption to give the label an aesthetic that gestures back to rye’s heyday.
For a whiskey to qualify as rye, the titular grain must make up at least 51% of the mash bill. Redemption’s core offering comfortably meets this criteria with rye making up 95% of the grain used (the remaining 5% is malted barley). The Redemption brand operates as an independent bottler rather than a distiller, and has made a name for themselves by their creative blending and finishing of MGP sourced products.
Master Blender Dave Carpenter is particularly important here, the touches he adds to the mass-produced spirits being what in large part differentiates the juice behind Redemption’s label. One such creative touch is employing rum casks to house finish rye whiskey. This year, Redemption has released the third batch of their rum cask finished rye using rum barrels sourced from Jamaica and Barbados, promising an interesting blend of flavor profiles combining the rich sweetness of rum and the peppery spice of rye.
Tasting Notes: Redemption Rum Cask Finish
Vital Stats: No age statement provided, aged minimum 3 months in rum casks. 47% ABV. Average price of $45
Appearance: A light copper color with a medium-light body.
Nose: Sweet dried fruits like white raisins and mangoes, with a white pepper tingle
Palate: The high rye content asserts itself early with flavors of earthy allspice that build up a bit of heat before falling off a cliff into the finish. This is where the glass really opens up and gets good with big fruit-cake-sweet raisins, stewed cherries, and dried fruit flavors. In the finish, the sweeter aspects fade out, leaving just tannins and distant cinnamon.
The rum cask finish goes a long way to soften the rye’s distinct flavor profile, mellowing the sharp bite of spice out into a rounder warmth and imparting a uniquely fruity aspect to the glass. This works well as a sipper, with just a drop or two of water to suit your taste, or can bring the best of both rum and rye to a noticeably superior whiskey-cola highball. The uncommonly fruity rye is fairly engaging on its own, but might be even more interesting as a cocktail ingredient.