Review: Redemption Aged Barrel Proof Straight Rye 10 Years Old (2017), High-Rye 10 Years Old, and Bourbon 9 Years Old (2017)

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of Redemption Rye’s Barrel Proof lineup, which comprises a series of three different whiskeys, released roughly once a year. Complicating matters are the fact that those whiskeys haven’t always been the same types of spirit. In 2015 it was three straight ryes. Today the lineup includes the same base spirits as what we reviewed in 2016, only all of them are now a bit older.

As it was last year, this year’s Aged Barrel Proof selection includes one straight rye and two bourbons, one from a high-rye mashbill and one from a lower-rye mash. (All are still sourced from MGP in Indiana.)

Note that packaging has been dramatically updated for this year — though, bless Redemption, despite the extra age, MSRP has not changed on any of the below whiskeys.

Let’s dig into the 2017 trio!

Redemption Aged Barrel Proof Straight Rye 10 Years Old (2017) – Same mash as 2016: 95% rye, 5% barley. There’s a surprising amount of youth on the nose here, boldly grainy, some dusky spice, and a leathery character as it fades. The palate is fairly straightforward and not terribly remarkable, chewy with a ton of toffee and caramel, and only moderate notes of fresh ginger, cloves, and black pepper. The finish muddies the waters, though, with a gummy, overtly earthy note that is a heavy letdown. 116.2 proof. B-

Redemption Aged Barrel Proof High-Rye Bourbon 10 Years Old – 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% barley. Massively spicy, with a racy, nostril-searing nose. While very nutty, it features some oddball aromas of mossy vegetation, fruitcake, and even a little petrol. The palate follows suit, again coming across not entirely like a bourbon. Dried fruits, dark chocolate, and pine resin all seem appropriate, but there’s a heavy herbal character on the back end that ultimately settles into a groove of … well, is that mustard? It’s an oddity, to be sure, but at least it’s approachable enough with water. 114.8 proof. B

Redemption Aged Barrel Proof Bourbon 9 Years Old (2017) – The lower-rye version of this bourbon at 10 years of age: 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% barley. More approachable than the High-Rye, with a seductive nose of toffee, nuts, and dried fruit — classic bourbon character through and through. The palate is warming, stuffed to the gills with flavors, including dates, juicy raisins, coffee bean, bold toffee and caramel notes, with a gentle red pepper note on the back end. At 108 proof it’s approachable, but water soothes the burn while bringing out the nutty, almond-centric flavors. At last a winner! 108.2 proof. A-

each $100 /

Review: 2015 Landmark Vineyards Overlook Pinot Noir

This 2015 pinot (made from 51% Santa Barbara County, 26% Sonoma County, and 23% Monterey County grapes) lands on the meaty side of the street, which is unusual for Landmark’s normally fruit-centric profile. Give it some air and a healthy swirl and you’ll find that cherry and vanilla cola notes bubble up on the palate, though the beefy nose keeps things quite grounded in the end. My gut is to let this one cellar a bit. Try it in 2019.

B / $20 /

Review: Egan’s Single Grain Irish Whiskey Vintage Grain 2009

In 2013, Egan’s Single Malt hit the market as a new Irish whiskey brand. Now Egan’s is out with a second offering, a single grain. Unlike the Single Malt, Egan’s Single Grain doesn’t merely carry an age statement — this is an eight year old, though that’s not stated in exactly those terms on the label. Rather, it is vintage-dated, indicating both the year of distillation and the year of bottling, in this case 2009 and 2017, respectively. If things go according to plan, this will be the first in a series of vintage-dated releases.

Egan’s Single Grain 2009 offers a less familiar nose than most single grains, which can often be heavy with cereal and mushroom notes. This whiskey is actually much lighter, delicate with floral notes and a restrained cereal core, gently sweetened and lightly earthy, a complex web of aromas in what is normally a rather simple undertaking.

On the palate, again the experience is elevated over the typical single grain. The body is light on its feet and bright with honey notes and hints of green table grapes. As the palate develops, the granary character builds, but here those notes are sweeter than expected, with brown sugar and some lingering baking spice notes adding complexity. The finish is warming but not hot, just about perfect, actually, working wonderfully as a straight winter sipper that merits some serious exploration.

This is a huge surprise to be sure, but all told, it’s one of the best single grains on the market — from any region, and at any age.

92 proof.

A- / $45 /

Review: The Traveler Beer Co. Jolly Traveler Winter Shandy

The good folks at The Traveler Beer Company present the latest in their limited edition line of shandies with Jolly Traveler Winter Shandy — a self-described “cheerful wheat beer” taking inspiration from aromas commonly associated with the holiday season. Surprisingly absent are the notes of nutmeg, dark fruits, and rye bread commonly found in holiday beers; instead they are substituted with light notes of orange and pomegranate up front. The real pleasure is in the baked cinnamon apples and faint pinch of ginger in the finish, which lingers gently for a rather long time. It’s a solid alternative to the usually bloated offerings found this time of year — like your Nana’s cooking or your uncle’s unsolicited political opinions.

4.4% abv.

A- / $7 per six-pack /

The Top 10 Whiskeys of 2017

We write about all things drinkable here at Drinkhacker, but nothing gets tongues wagging more than our coverage of whiskey. Both readers and the staff alike have an obsession with the stuff, so this year we decided to get together and hash out our own top ten list of the best whiskey releases of 2017, both to honor those distilleries who got it right this year, and to give shoppers a handy cheat sheet they can take to their local bottle shop. It wasn’t an easy task, and it took significant time and effort to whittle down some 25 nominees into a list of 10 that all of us felt we could be proud of. Naturally, since taste is subjective, the debate hardly ends here. If we left out your favorite of the year (and we probably did), let us know in the comments.

Here’s to a whiskified 2018! And while you’re here, don’t miss our 2017 holiday guide, which has our top picks of the year in all spirits (and wine) categories.

1. Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon 2017 “Al Young 50th Anniversary” – Gush all you want about your Elijah Craig Barrel Proof; this one-off bottling of Four Roses’ Small Batch, bottled in honor of longtime staffer Al Young, is the best bourbon of the year. It’s also the best whiskey of the year, period, an exotic monster filled with heady aromas of spices, florals, and sultry vanilla and chocolate notes. Equal parts fruit, spice, and confectioneries, the palate is long, soothing, and incredibly inviting. Though prices have shot through the roof, it’s still hard not recommend without reservation. 108.98 proof. $500 -CN

2. Glenmorangie Bacalta – The yearly limited releases from Glenmorangie are always appointment drinking. At their best, they tend to be exercises in complex drinkability. Bacalta is one of the best yet from the distillery. A shining example of amazing balance, Bacalta mingles notes of sweet fruit and spice in a way which makes it a very difficult whisky to put down. It’s one of those whiskies which reveals a little something extra with every sip, easily making it one of the best drinking experiences of the year. 92 proof. $90 -NC

3. Compass Box No Name – This is Compass Box’s peatiest whisky yet, even more so than the Peat Monster. Mostly 2003 Ardbeg with some Caol Ila and Clynelish for mouthfeel, this blended malt is a stunner. Gotta love that Compass Box packaging too, really sexy stuff even before the bottle is open! Lime juice and grapefruit arrive on the nose, along with faded peat smoke. The mouthfeel is luscious, with great oils and plenty of citrus to balance the smoke. Medium-long creamy finish. For me this an immediate buy, or if, like me, you have no money left for whisky this year, pray Santa brings you one! 97.8 proof. $130 -DC

4. The Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey 16 Years Old – If you love the lighter, fruitier flavors in Irish whiskey but also appreciate the earthiness and spice cabinet of traditional Scottish single malt, look no further than The Tyrconnell Single Malt 16 Years Old. This double-distilled whiskey from Ireland’s Cooley Distillery was aged in ex-bourbon barrels and bottled at a slightly higher proof than your average Irish single malt. From nose to finish, there’s a great balance of baking spice, citrus, vanilla, and stone fruit notes. It’s a beautiful whiskey and a real pleasure to drink. 92 proof. $95 -DB

5. Wyoming Whiskey Double Cask Limited Edition – For its first foray into barrel finishing, Wyoming Whiskey really knocked it out of the park with Double Cask Limited Edition. This release, developed with the help of industry specialist and master blender Nancy Fraley, took carefully chosen barrels of Wyoming Whiskey’s five year old wheated bourbon and finished them in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. The result is a whiskey with a big nose of dried fruit, fig, and candied apricot and a syrupy palate with notes of dark berry, vanilla, raisin, and candied orange peel. Only 110 cases were produced, but this one can still be found for a reasonable price. For now! 100 proof. $60 -DB

6. Parker’s Heritage Collection Single Barrel Bourbon 11 Years Old 2017 – Heaven Hill’s annual release of the Parker’s Heritage Collection always marks the unofficial beginning of the holiday season, and fans got a winner as the distillery returned to its roots for 2017. This 11 year old, single barrel, cask strength bourbon doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but by cherry-picking the distillery’s very best barrels, it’s created a complex masterpiece that’s loaded with notes of fresh fruit, honey, hazelnuts, white pepper, and more. It all comes together with such harmony that you may not mind the wildly inflated price tag. 122 proof. $400 -CN

7. Bruichladdich Octomore 10 Years Old (2017) – New Master Distiller Adam Hannett has had no problems assuming the captain’s chair from Jim McEwan — steering the good ship Bruichladdich into 2017 and releasing one expression of quality after another. This second offering of Octomore 10 Year delivers more of what loyal followers expect from the series: high peat (167ppm), loads of smoke, pepper, black tea, and tobacco — all courtesy of a short slumber in grenache blanc casks and bourbon barrels. It’s complex and well-balanced, and fans of previous editions won’t be disappointed, while newcomers to the series will find this an accessible entry point. 114.6 proof. $200 -RT

8. Westland Peat Week 2017 – When word broke last December that Paris-based spirits giant Rémy Cointreau was purchasing Seattle’s Westland Distillery, many a wise sage in the court of social media voiced concern that the quality of offerings would be tainted by corporate interference and marketing mischief. Thankfully this has not yet proven to be the case, and 2017’s offering for Peat Week delivers the goods. The nice balance of peat and fruit on the nose is not too aggressive — almost bourbon-like — that slowly brings to its conclusion a softer blend of cinnamon, vanilla, and an amazing finish of campfire smoke. There are three vintage label designs depicting circus performers, but the juice is consistent regardless of aesthetic choice. 108.8 proof. $100 -RT

9. Bunnahabhain 13 Years Old Marsala Finish – This is a whisky I have bizarre fever dreams about. There is just something magically exotic about the combination of Islay malt and Marsala wine, somewhere between Spanish sherry and a Moroccan bazaar. Tasted fresh, the sweet berries and chocolate notes aren’t as lush on the palate as they were on my initial inspection, as the smokier notes have muscled their way to the forefront. Still, it’s all so unusual and strangely compelling that it’s hard not to be enchanted by it. Pro tip: Give it lots of air, and take big gulps of it, not baby sips. 92.6 proof. $76 -CN

10. Kilchoman Red Wine Cask Matured – One of the youngest Islay distilleries in operation, Kilchoman keeps going from strength to strength. This roughly 5 year old release was aged entirely in Portuguese red wine casks, giving it a profile which is a bit unique from other Kilchoman releases. The usually assertive smoke and peat serves more as background in this one, propping up notes of chocolate, stewed red fruits, and a delightfully savory woody touch. It is a whiskey which uses bold, complex flavors to immediately put a smile on your face. Grab it while you still can, because it is probably the most fun bottle of whiskey you will come across this year. 100 proof. $115 -NC

Capsule reviews by Christopher Null, Neal Christyson, Drew Beard, Rob Theakston, and David Cover.

Eggnog: A Holiday Cocktail History

It’s that time of year again: holiday joy, holiday cheer, and of course, holiday cocktails. One drink that can make your nights a little more merry and bright is eggnog, that love-it-or-hate-it egg-and-alcohol combination that goes great with turkey and figgy pudding and whatever other holiday treats you want to indulge in before swearing them all off forever on New Year’s Day. But what really is eggnog, where does it come from? Can this heavy holiday drink have an interesting history behind it? Read on.

Like many alcoholic treats, eggnog can be traced back to those pious brewers supreme, medieval monks. We have writings from the 13th century that describe British monks whipping up an egg drink spiked with ale, called posset, as a cold and flu remedy. The ale was later swapped out for sherry and the drink was appropriated by British aristocrats, who used it as a status symbol, eggs and sherry being expensive treats mostly reserved for the affluent. At this point, the egg-and-alcohol drink wasn’t specifically a yuletide tradition. It was consumed year-round at aristocratic gatherings.

Posset was introduced to the New World by the 17th century, and here is where it began to take on the characteristics we might recognize. Colonial America was a land of farms and plantations, and so things the colonists had in abundance included milk, eggs, and rum, which became the prime alcoholic ingredient over English sherry, an expensive import. George Washington was fond of entertaining guests at Mount Vernon with a nog-like drink made of eggs and milk with sherry, rum, and rye whiskey; needless to say, this would have kept one pretty warm at Valley Forge. America was also where eggnog acquired its status as a holiday drink, a tradition that continues to this day. While the drink is enjoyed during the winter season in other countries as well these days (Canada and Australia both have a fondness for the stuff), nog as a holiday treat will always be an American tradition.

After all this time, the basic recipe for eggnog hasn’t changed all that much: British monks made posset with milk, eggs, cream, sugar, and alcohol, and that’s pretty much all it takes these days as well. Of course, there are plenty of variations; the easiest swap to make is in the alcohol. Nowadays, eggnog is most often made with brandy, but rum and whiskey are both popular additions as well. In Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago you can drink a glass of ponche crema, eggnog made with lemon rind, in Puerto Rico they make coquito, eggnog with coconut juice or milk instead of eggs, and in Mexico they make it with Mexican cinnamon and vanilla and call it rompope. Eggnog can be an acquired taste, but a warm glass on a cold winter night can be an experience without parallel. Just be careful; not only can the alcohol can be high (especially if you try the Washington special) but all that cream and eggs mean that it’s a highly caloric drink as well. One too many glasses and you can end up looking like Santa.

And now for a treat, here’s George Washington’s eggnog recipe, straight from the pen of the first president himself. He doesn’t record the number of eggs in the recipe, but as this is an industrial-sized batch, about a dozen are typically used.

“One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, ½ pint rye whiskey, ½ pint Jamaica rum, ¼ pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of 12 eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.”