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Redwood Empire Emerald Giant Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

$90.00

OVERALL
RATING

7

Whiskey Review: Redwood Empire Emerald Giant Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

Tasting Notes:

About:
Redwood Empire Emerald Giant Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is made from 94% rye, 5% malted barley, and 1% wheat, and aged for four years. It’s 116.4 proof. Find a 750mL bottle in many markets nationwide for around $90.
Appearance:
This whiskey is a very clear amber with a brown cast that forms fat tears.
Nose:
Much more subtle on the nose than Lost Monarch, I smell hyacinth on the attack. Brown sugar and vanilla extract eclipse a whisper of sweet cinnamon and dill.
Palate:
The flavor is dominated by funk and pinesap, with spice that dries to the point of tannin. It’s a little numbing on mid-palate with a finish of white pepper.
Finish:
Comments:
This is a solid rye. I like how funky it is while maintaining drinkability. The proof is the lowest of the cask strength series by a mere .4, but the alcohol stays tamer than that of the Pipe Dream.

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. 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 in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Redwood Empire is a brand that’s been through some transition. It began life as the mandatory whiskey foray of Purple Brands, brainchild of Derek Benham (whose eponymous vodka and gin had been met with some market accolades.) The first iteration didn’t go so great, their flagship rye-bourbon blend meeting to tepid reception.

Fast forward to 2020, when the core whiskey line got a refreshed look playing homage to John Muir, famous lover of those famous trees (Muir Woods National Monument remains one of my favorite places on earth, so I can’t argue), via some gnarled but charming illustrations by Steven Noble. Now the line has been reimagined as a cask-strength series.

Redwood Empire prides themselves on a sustainable process. The heart of this in practice is their continuous micro-column still, built by Headframe Stills. It allows them to distill all their whiskies with a single pass, so no stripping runs, no finishing run. 

Headframe co-owner John McKee does a great job explaining running a batch still versus a continuous column still. A batch still is like a tea kettle: you fill it with cold water (wash, of course), bring everything up to temperature, boil off the heads, boil off the hearts and then you’re left with the nearly non-alcoholic liquid of the tails. That needs to be emptied and refilled with alcoholic wash and the whole system needs to be reheated. (You can see the energy inefficiency in this method pretty quickly.) With a continuous column (double column, in this case), you heat constantly while adding wash constantly. 

Of course, there are (seemingly valid) flavor arguments to be made for pot stills, but the numbers are clear in terms of energy use: according to Headframe’s calculator, these stills use about 70% of the energy of the average pot still. The method is also very efficient in terms of alcohol recovery, clawing back 90% of the alcohol in the wash. This percentage sounds impressive, but I found it difficult to find a clear answer on how much a typical pot still recovers, so take that with a grain of salt. It’s thrifty with space, too: because of the constant feeding, the batch size is set by amount of ferment not the volume of the still. Time is also saved, a small (1000 series) continuous still cranking out 2-2.5 barrels of whiskey a day.

Paired with their still choice is a custom designed mash tun that heats with direct steam injection, quickly breaking down grain starches into sugars that feed the yeast to create that boozy wash. They use a collection of off-grain and on-grain fermentation techniques to maximize the aromatics and flavor complexity prior to distillation.  

All the members of this line are named for notable redwood trees. This rye whiskey is named for a colossal sequoia with a height of 359 feet.

How did this hard-working little still do? Let’s put some in the glass. 

Redwood Empire Emerald Giant Cask Strength Rye Whiskey review
We review Redwood Empire Emerald Giant Cask Strength Rye Whiskey, made from 94% rye, 5% malted barley, and 1% wheat, and bottled at 116.4 proof. (image via Redwood Empire)

Tasting Notes: Redwood Empire Emerald Giant Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

Vital Stats: Redwood Empire Emerald Giant Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is made from 94% rye, 5% malted barley, and 1% wheat, and aged for four years. It’s 116.4 proof. Find a 750mL bottle in many markets nationwide for around $90.

Appearance: This whiskey is a very clear amber with a brown cast that forms fat tears.

Nose: Much more subtle on the nose than Lost Monarch, I smell hyacinth on the attack. Brown sugar and vanilla extract eclipse a whisper of sweet cinnamon and dill.

Palate: The flavor is dominated by funk and pinesap, with spice that dries to the point of tannin. It’s a little numbing on mid-palate with a finish of white pepper. 

Cindy Capparelli

In 2014 I founded Portland Bitters Project with the vision to create the best bitters on the market. Now our bitters are enjoyed around the country and internationally to make expressive, delicious cocktails. I teach at two Portland colleges and visit private groups, distilleries and maker's spaces to spread the gospel of high-quality ingredients and time-honored technique. I give my students the confidence and knowledge to stir up a drink at home, experiment with tinctures or just more fully enjoy their food and beverage experiences.

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