Red River is being billed as a “relaunch,” but I can’t exactly tell where or what it’s being relaunched from. What I do know is that it’s part of the Shaw Ross Importers portfolio, which puts out a large collection of rum, tequila, whiskey, and other spirits, wines, and sakes. As an importer, it may come as no surprise that Red River is the company’s first bourbon — and it’s not made by MGP. In fact, it hails from a distillery in Texas called Western Son, located in Pilot Point (near Dallas) and best known as a vodka producer.
It surely does seem to be the real thing, not rebranded contract whiskey. To wit:
Red River Texas Whiskey is uniquely crafted in the Lone Star State. Aged in charred American oak barrels, the Red River range includes four outstanding, high quality whiskies from the Red River Distillery in Dallas, Texas: Red River Bourbon which is finished in Napa Valley pinot noir casks, Red River Single Barrel Bourbon which is bottled at 96.8 proof, Red River Texas Rye and Red River Blended Whiskey. Uniquely packaged, the top and the point of the white coating on every bottle are a tribute to the buttons and back yoke of a traditional Western pearl-snap shirt. A portion of the proceeds from every bottle sold of Red River Texas Whiskey goes to support native Texas wildlife conservation.
Shaw Ross sent us two of the initial products from Red River (a blended whiskey and a single barrel bourbon appear to not yet be released) for our review. Neither has an age statement; both feature unusual finishes. Details (at least what’s available) and thoughts follow.
Red River Texas Bourbon – “A proprietary blend of corn, rye and barley fermented; aged in new, charged American oak barrels and then finished in Napa Valley Pinot Noir casks.” Lots of wood on the nose, along with some notes of beef brisket, but quite a bit more subdued than the typical Texas bourbon experience. Some cinnamon and allspice notes are also evident on the nose. The palate surprises by immediately revealing itself as quite sweet, with notes of butter cookies, vanilla, Mexican chocolate, and banana pudding all in a swirl — a few of which I’d probably credit the wine cask for. The more savory elements on the nose don’t really reappear here, instead leaving room for a wood-heavy conclusion that folds in notes of licorice and bitter roots. It’s a bit of a wild ride and quite a confusing experience, but still a fairly worthwhile one. 82.4 proof. B+ / $40
Red River Texas Rye – “Made from a mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley; aged in new, charred American oak barrels and finished in Red River bourbon barrels.” Quite a different animal. Nothing but lumberyard up front, touched with notes of mint and an earthier, charred-beef nose. Again, the palate diverges, here running primarily to notes of Bit-O-Honey (or possibly Honeycomb cereal), with secondary roles for lemon and red pepper. The finish is more savory than the palate would let on — again, a plot twist — as more of that barbeque/barrel char note takes hold again. Simpler and less ambitious than the bourbon. 80 proof. B / $30