Whiskey Reviews: Proof And Wood Presidential Drams (2020)

Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples by Proof and Wood Ventures. This in no way, per our editorial policiesinfluenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy links in this article our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

When Dave Schmier founded Proof and Wood Ventures in 2015, the nation was on the verge of a presidential election. It occurred to him that no matter which party won, there was going to be an inauguration to celebrate every four years.

“DC is nothing if not a great hospitality town,” Schmier says. “It would be a great party no matter what. I knew people in the business in DC, and we talked about good whiskey and peaceful transitions of power and all that represented.”

It was perhaps a simpler time, Schmier concedes now.

To help fuel the quadrennial party, Proof and Wood in 2016 unveiled what it called the DC Collection and rolled out its first Presidential Drams. The startup had been able to source 4-year-old rye and 8-year-old bourbon, and released them – naturally – as one-term and two-term Presidential Drams, available exclusively in Washington, DC.

Four years later, the DC Collection has expanded to include The Justice (14-year-old bourbon), The Senator (6-year-old rye), The Ambassador (12-year-old bourbon) and The Representative (4-year-old bourbon, in a nod to two House terms). All the expressions are released at barrel proof.

Plus, of course, there’s a new round of Presidential Drams for this inaugural year. The rye Schmier acquired four years ago has aged, so this time around it’s the 8-year, two-term dram. The 4-year, one-term dram is bourbon this time. Both are also being distributed beyond Washington, DC, this time, in “about 20 states,” Schmier says.

Proof and Wood plans to issue The Senator and The Representative annually, and The Justice and The Ambassador when it’s able to acquire whiskey that warrants special releases. The Presidential Drams will continue to be timed to match new presidential inaugurations every four years.

As the company ages, Schmier says it will be less reliant on what it can acquire from MGP Ingredients and other producers. Proof and Wood at this point has “a decent inventory of whiskey I already bought and laid down” for future expressions.

“I generally put in a bottle what I like,” he says. “It’s really gratifying to see who agrees with me. Not everybody will, and that’s okay.

“My goal,” Schmier says, “is to continue releasing quality whiskey and interesting whiskey at a fair price.”

Presidential Dram Single Barrel Rye and Single Barrel Bourbon

Presidential Dram Single Barrel Rye and Single Barrel Bourbon (image via Proof and Wood Ventures)

Tasting Notes: The Presidential Dram Barrel Proof 4-year Straight Bourbon

Vital Stats: Mash bill of 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malted barley; 57.25% alcohol by volume/114.5 proof; aged at least four years in new charred oak; $79.99 for a 750ml bottle.

Appearance: Burnt orange.

Nose: Honey, caramel, vanilla. There’s something floral going on. Not particularly boozy for a whiskey that’s 114.5 proof.

Palate: Warm, smooth and easy. Again, for something this high proof, it goes down easily. It lacked the spiciness I thought I might find in a high-rye bourbon. I did, however, discover brown sugar, caramel, sweet black plums and dark chocolate.

Final Thoughts: Typical of MGP juice, this is a smooth and easy whiskey. At $79.99 and given the novelty value of the Presidential Dram, I’d be happy to add it to my shelf.

Score: 4/5

Tasting Notes: The Presidential Dram Barrel Proof 8-year Straight Rye

Vital Stats: Mash bill of 95% rye and 5% barley; aged at least eight years in new charred oak; around $100 for a 750ml bottle.

Appearance: Burnt orange.

Nose: Almond slices, honeysuckle, vanilla. Surprisingly sweet and flowery for a rye.

Palate: The rye spiciness comes through here more than on the nose. Orange-peel zest, black pepper, peppermint extract.

Final Thoughts: The MGP rye is widely regarded, and this whiskey has aged four additional years under the control of Proof and Wood. It’s good juice, appropriate for celebrating a peaceful transition of power in any year.

Score: 4/5

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Scott Bernard Nelson

Scott Bernard Nelson is a writer, actor and whiskey reviewer in Portland, Ore. Scott works in higher education these days, but he previously spent 22 years as a journalist, covering 9/11 in Manhattan, crossing into Iraq with U.S. Marines and contributing to The Boston Globe's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of sexual...