Remember the Redemption Whiskey brand? That upstart — instrumental in the early days of the bourbon and rye revival — was eventually sold, and the folks behind it have quietly started a new operation called Proof and Wood Ventures, an operation so under the radar that they don’t even have a website. Hell, they don’t even have a Facebook page.
I tracked founder Dave Schmier down and asked him to send us some samples of the whiskeys they have available. Some, notably the Ambassador and Senator bottlings, aren’t available any more, having become collectible rarities from the moment they were released. But we did receive four expressions, plus a rum which we’ll be reviewing separately. Like Redemption, these are all sourced whiskeys hailing from various locales. Everything we know follows.
Deadwood Bourbon – Schmier calls this “American table whiskey — good solid whiskey for everyday use.” 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley, at least two years old. Distilled in Indiana. As Schmier notes, this is surprisingly good and solid stuff considering its age and price tag. The nose is lightly toasty with oak and laced with notes of chocolate, caramel, and vanilla. The palate is soft and approachable, its woody elements balanced delightfully with a second slug of cocoa, more vanilla, and a hint of cinnamon. Nothing fancy here at all, but you would be hard pressed to find anything as readily approachable as this whiskey at this price level (and that’s a legit, on-the-shelf price level, not some ridiculous MSRP). Prove me wrong! 81 proof. A- / $20
Deadwood Rye – A blend of Indiana and Tennessee rye, all over two years old. No mashbill info available. Racy and woody, this is the flipside of the soft bourbon above. Pushy and assertive, the whiskey blends a cereal-heavy character with tons of wood, finding room on the nose for plenty of menthol, too. The palate is overwhelming with heavy, heavy spice elements and red pepper, atop a brown butter body. It never lets up, well into the long and rolling finish, gritty with raw spices and a substantial echo of barrel char. The overall impression is one of a whiskey that is simply much too young and unpolished, though if you’re looking for a true Old West saloon style, well, you’ve got it here — complete with playing cards on the label. 83 proof. B / $20
Tumblin’ Dice Bourbon 3 Years Old – Formally “Deadwood Presents: Tumblin’ Dice,” which is a funny name by default. It’s three year old MGP bourbon, with a Redemption-style high-rye mashbill of 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% barley. There’s ample rye spice character alongside a burly wood aroma here, which, when coupled with the higher abv, gives the whiskey an immediate pop. Though just three years old it’s got at least enough maturity to create some semblance of balance, an initial note of peanut pairing fairly well with notes of dill, raisin, and crushed apples. Plenty of classic baking spice offers plenty to dig into later in the game, with a sharp, sometimes biting cinnamon note lingering on the finish. Versatile. 100 proof. B+ / $45
Idle Hands Bourbon 13 Years Old – “Deadwood Presents” this too, though it’s a much different beast than all of the above. A collaboration with the defunct NY whiskey bar Idle Hands, this is a batching of two barrels of 13 year old bourbon from MGP (which was LDI at the time). 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley. 219 bottles produced, for sale only in New York City. A rich note of roasted peanuts, savory dill, baking spice, honey, and barrel char offers an inviting — though not unexpected — introduction to what’s clearly a very mature whiskey. The palate is considerably less obvious, with a heavy body loaded up with brown butter, roasted nuts, and brown sugar. Spice builds as the finish approaches, as does the sweetness. The whiskey ultimately evokes notes of candy corn and peanut brittle on the back end, making for a hugely dessert-friendly offering. Idle Hands is light on its feet and delightful on the tongue, a significant pivot against the typical bottle of older bourbon, one where wood often becomes the focus. That said, $300 is an awfully hard sell. 96.66 proof. A- / $300