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Cigar Spirits: Redemption Rye and Riverboat Rye

29 May 2014

Redemption Rye and its brother Riverboat Rye don’t claim to be the result of secret recipes handed down from great-great-granddad or prohibition-era gangsters. Both are sold by “Bardstown Barrel Selections” and distilled at MPGI in Lawrenceburg, Indiana (formerly LDI), a wholesaler of whiskey.

redemption-ryesIf the Lawrenceburg address sounds familiar, it should. It’s 95/5 rye/malted barley mashbill is the basis of a number of ryes on the market: Dickel, Bulleit, Templeton, Old Scout, and others. But each takes on its own characteristics based on age, barrel selection, proof, etc.

As far as Redemption Rye and Riverboat Rye are concerned, each is relatively young: “under four years” according to their labels, probably in the 2-3 year range (although some sites selling Riverboat identify it as slightly younger than Redemption). Redemption is filtered and bottled at 92-proof. Riverboat is taken down to 80-proof, but in a twist from the usual (at least for whiskey bottled at so low a proof) it isn’t filtered before being bottled.

 Redemption Rye

The youth of this whiskey (~$27) is apparent from the nose which features fresh apple and oak. On the palate it shows flavors of cereal grain, oak, and some peppery spice swith honey sweetness. The clean finish clings to the roof of your mouth.

It has surprising sophistication for its young age and it’s pleasing neat or on the rocks. That, combined with a fair price (at a time when so many places are bottling up even younger whiskey and trying to sell it for twice as much), makes it worth checking out if you’re looking to expand your rye horizons.

Riverboat Rye

Bottled unfiltered, it’s a bit cloudy, and when you put it up to the light, a small amount of particulate is visible. The going price seems to be $25 for a 1L bottle, or a 750 ml. bottle for $20. It’s similar to Redemption though tamer, probably due to its lower 80-proof. The nose is more apple juice than raw apples and the Palate seems to feature sawdust and honey. The finish barely exists.

Riverboat rye is slightly smoother than Redemption but far less interesting. It’s a perfectly good cocktail rye that you might also consider offering to someone who wants a rye, but would be scared off by a higher proof. (On the flip side, a more seasoned rye drinker is going to find the low proof less than satisfying.)

The company also sells an un-aged rye, bottled straight from the still at 92-proof.  It’s raw, floral, and briny. I suppose this could work in the right cocktail, though more than anything it’s an educational experience. At the same proof as Redemption Rye, the side by side comparison shows how much impact a few years in a new charred oak barrel adds. (And unlike Jack Daniels’ new un-aged rye, you aren’t paying a premium for the experience.)

The unique characteristics of each rye impact the cigar pairings. Redemption Rye has the strength to stand up to a spicy Honduran cigar like a Camacho Corojo. Riverboat Rye requires a more subtle, smooth cigar, like the recently-released Dunhill 1907 or the León Family Reserve by La Aurora.

Ultimately, comparing young rye with something even twice as old is not particularly helpful since the style is so different. That said, as far as fairly priced younger rye, Redemption is a real standout in the category.

Patrick S

photo credits: Stogie Guys

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