Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Proof and Wood. 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.
Industry vet Dave Schmier scored a big hit with the introduction of Redemption Rye in 2010 and helped introduce the whiskey world to a hitherto unknown sleeping colossus: the old Seagram’s distilling plant based in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, now known as MGP. The ripened barrels of Pennsylvania style rye (95% rye/5% malted barley) that were the house style were gathering dust since the fall of the house of Seagram’s in 2000. While there was at that time no real concept of “sourcing” from an old giant to create a new brand, he and his partner started to buy some of the barrels and blended them to what became the Redemption style.
After selling Redemption to a larger company, his new company Proof and Wood was developed to further the idea that control over the final product is in the ageing and proofing of the spirit, not the distilling. While also importing some brands from abroad, the focus returned to sourcing from MGP and other American distilleries to create what Schmier describes as “table whiskey.” That was the birth of Deadwood, a decently priced and enjoyable everyday bourbon blend.
In any case, the focus for this review is on Proof and Wood’s Roulette Rye, which is a four-year sourced whiskey. This rye is unapologetically an MGP product with the signature mash bill of 95% rye and 5% barley.
Roulette follows in the footsteps of the Deadwood bourbon as a quality, yet reasonably priced whiskey. With the popularity of the Deadwood whiskey amongst bartenders in regards to quality and price, the next reasonable step was to come out with a rye for the same purpose. Indeed, at a price point of about $27-29 per 750ml bottle, Roulette does compete with the usual go-tos of Old Overholt or Rittenhouse for a well rye.
Tasting Notes: Roulette Rye
Vital Stats: 100 proof, 50% ABV. Mash bill of 95% rye and 5% barley. Aged four years. Sells for about $29 per 750ml.
Appearance: Ruby red for sure. No extra hues or tints. In the Glencairn, legs were long but sporadic.
Nose: Hot and big. Lots of orange marmalade from the get-go, followed by Amarena cherry.
Palate: Cherry and dark fruit with a medium body and finish. In a way, this may sound strange, but some of the fruit elements reminded me of red wine. Beyond that the whiskey finishes with rye spice and a hint of nuttiness.
I gave this a 3.5 rating mostly due to the fact that the whiskey achieves what it was intended for. It’s a decent sipper on its own, though clearly meant for mixing. It’s 100 proof, with just enough complexity to keep things interesting. I imagine it would work quite well in an old fashioned or Manhattan.
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Kenji is a bartender in Portland, Oregon at the Pope House Bourbon Lounge. A bourbon enthusiast for decades. He likes big whiskeys, pretty much anything over 100 proof.