Some of the current highest rated (and highest-priced) bourbons in the world use wheat as a significant portion of their grain recipe, but this isn’t necessarily a common practice among the broader bourbon industry. And now, to the delight of those who don’t want to wait in long lines or pay ridiculous prices for a single bottle, Redemption is making a similar wheated bourbon at a much more reasonable price point.
Redemption is a relatively new company in the spirits industry.
Around 2009, veterans of the distilled alcohol business Dave Schmier and Michael Kanbar noticed an increased interest in rye whiskey within the market. Quite ideal as a mixer for cocktails, the added spice in the rye whiskey provides a flavor that most bourbons just can’t match. They decided to go into business producing rye whiskey and other high rye content spirits and thus Redemption was born.
After a few years in the market, the company was purchased in 2015 by the Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits company, the same company that brings us [yellow tail] wine. Deutsch had gotten into the spirits industry about the same time as Redemption was starting up and with the rapid expansion of Redemption, they offered a way to better scale the business.
As far as I can tell, Redemption does not have a distillation facility. Instead, Redemption (like so many other budget or beginner spirit companies) purchases their spirit from MGP, a large mass production facility for alcohol in Indiana. The spirit is bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky, but I’m not sure if they have their own dedicated aging facility or if MGP does that as well. Given that some of their offerings claim to be aged for longer than the company has been in business, I’m betting that they are relying on MGP for a good portion of the aging process.
As mentioned, wheated bourbons are something that has gained significant popularity recently — especially thanks to products like Weller and Pappy Van Winkle. Following in their footsteps, this whiskey starts with the bare minimum of corn content required to be called a bourbon (51%) and then adds a whole mess of wheat (45%) and a tiny touch of malted barley (4%). Those grains are cooked and fermented before being distilled into new whiskey.
That new whiskey is then placed into charred new oak barrels for a period of four years before the casks are cracked open and the results are bottled.
The bottle is similar in style to the Bulleit Bourbon brand, with straight walls and a rounded shoulder tapering to a straight short neck. One strange thing about the bottle is that it sports a concave curve on the back of the bottle, much like a hip flask. I suppose that makes sense in a smaller bottle where you might want to shove it into your jeans as you walk around with it… but in this format it just means you need a bigger bottle. Which is a bit unwieldy but probably good for retail and bar shelf appeal.
The brand name is embossed into the bottle itself, and there’s a label on the front with all of the relevant information on it.
What I like about this bottle is the same thing I like about other similar ones: it doesn’t hide the spirit. There’s some branding and just enough data to make a purchase decision, but the spirit inside of the bottle is the star of the show.
The bottle is topped with an actual wood topped cork stopper, a touch I truly appreciate for a budget priced bourbon.
This whiskey smells great. There’s a smooth, well-saturated aroma coming off the glass that has the usual caramel and vanilla notes, but also has some fresh sliced pear sweetness and a bit of nutmeg.
Taking a sip, though, the flavor is not what I had expected. I’m getting some of the same flavor notes that I would expect from a Tennessee whiskey — specifically, that fruity banana aspect. There’s also a bit of minty freshness mixed in, which seems to give it a little hint of character and a touch of zest on the finish.
Usually, with a little bit of ice any flavors that were too loud or obnoxious gets toned down a bit, t the overall benefit of the spirit. There is a problem here, though: namely, that there wasn’t anything loud or obnoxious in that glass to begin with.
Instead, the ice does some funky stuff with the balance of the flavors. The fruity banana aspect has been turned down significantly, with the caramel now being the most dominant flavor in the mixture. The mint is also sadly diminished to the point of nonexistence.
On the plus side, a new flavor and texture appears and it can only be described as akin to biting into a slice of Wonderbread. I think it’s the wheat finally making itself visible as a clear component of the whiskey (and not just a supporting character), and I think it does well here to make a sweet and well blended spirit.
This spirit is already on the sweeter side of the spectrum compared to other bourbons. So it should be no surprise that the old fashioned that it produces might be better suited to a small cocktail umbrella garnish than to a slice of orange.
Specifically, that banana fruitiness heavily influences the end result. There aren’t a lot of the usual heavy charred oak notes to bring a smoky or rich texture to the cocktail, so instead the angostura bitters themselves are the richest thing in the mixture. All those herbs and spices combine to make something that, with the right sweetness, could easily be confused for a painkiller cocktail with a spiced rum base.
It’s sweet and delicious and I really like it. But it’s not exactly a traditional Old Fashioned.
While, in general, I like the result that this produced… I don’t think it hits all of the criteria we usually use to judge a successful Kentucky Mule.
The biggest component of a good Kentucky Mule is that the flavors in the bourbon need to balance with the sharp and bitter ginger beer. In this case, they are right on the spot. That fruity banana flavor really helps mellow things out, and the latent caramel and vanilla add some additional flavors that make this a really delicious cocktail.
The issue comes with the second criteria: that the whiskey add something different and notable to the flavor profile (else it may as well be a Moscow Mule). There really isn’t any interesting texture or flourish that the whiskey brings to the table, unlike the high rye version of their spirit. It’s just kind of… mellow. Flat. Like an accountant that put on a Hawaiian shirt and straw hat while on vacation.
This is different, and in a good way. The flavors are closer to a Tennessee whiskey than anything else, but there’s a smooth texture to it that makes for an enjoyable drinking experience. I don’t think that this quite makes it to the same level as a Weller… but, even on its own, this is a pretty good choice for the money.
|Redemption Wheated Bourbon|
Produced By: RedemptionOwned By: Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits
Production Location: United States
Classification: Bourbon Whiskey
Aging: 4 Years
Proof: 46% ABV
Price: $44.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 4/5
A delicious departure from the normal bourbon formula.