On February 17th, 2016 we attended the ‘Redemption Whiskey 5 Course Dinner & Tasting’ at The VIG restaurant. This was the first dinner of it’s kind sponsored by Redemption Whiskey and the first hosted by The VIG. The pressure was on, did they pull off a memorable night? Was the whiskey any good? How about the food? I know, the suspense is killing us too!
Redemption was started by friends and industry vets Dave Schmier and Michael Kanbar in 2010 out of a love for rye whiskey. They primarily advertise three products, Rye, High-Rye Bourbon, and a Straight Bourbon Whiskey. With several barrel proof variations of the rye. The juice is sourced from MGP in Indiana and bottled in Bardstown Kentucky. At a time when American whiskey is on the rise with new brands popping up seemingly overnight it’s refreshing to see “Distilled in the Indiana heartland” stamped on each bottle of Redemption. They are selecting, mingling, and bottling a fine product that stands on it’s own without the need to hide where it’s distilled.
When we arrived we first met Joe Riggs, Whiskey Ambassador for Redemption Whiskey. Joe was employee number four with the company. He’s been a bartender, restaurant consultant, and whiskey guide. Joe is based in Louisville, KY, right in the heart of the bourbon industry. Joe told us about Redemption and shared some bourbon history throughout dinner. Most impressively he told us about his history as a bartender in Louisville and his passion for using fresh fruits and citrus at a time before mixology was considered the art that it is today.
Co-hosting the event was Mark Lowen, Spirits Regional Manager – IL and KY, Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits. Deutsch comes into the Redemption story in June of 2015. Redemption had grown very quickly, supply was short and distribution was struggling. Dave and Michael were producing an award winning rye that was selling out faster than they could bottle it. They wanted to grow the company and recognized they would need some help. Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits purchased Redemption as the first whiskey in their portfolio. Talking to Mark we could tell that he’s excited for the future of Redemption. He told us they scaled back from 27 markets to focus on meeting the demand of 15 primary markets, Chicago being one of them. The long game is to build the Redemption brand into all 50 states. They have been working hard to keep up with demand, forging relationships with local vendors including Chicago’s Binny’s. Binny’s actually bought two barrels of the 8 year old barrel proof rye and is currently the only place in the country to buy that specific bottling. (UPDATE: There is a 7 year more widely available)
We started the evening with a welcome cocktail. “The Grifter”, made with the 95% rye, showcases their love of rye. The rye stands up well when combined with the grapefruit bitters and other flavors of this cocktail. These ingredients just beg to be paired with a strong rye to create an excellent balance.
- 1.5 oz Redemption Rye
- 0.75 oz Vecchio Amaro del Capo
- 0.75 oz Lillet Blanc
- 2 hard dashes grapefruit bitters
We were fortunate enough the sample all of the whiskeys served neat. This allowed us to nose and taste at full strength then add water to bring out additional notes.
The whiskeys we sampled (each paired with one of the entrees below)
- Redemption Straight Bourbon:
- Mash bill: 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley malt
- 84 Proof
- Age: NAS (at least 2 years)
- Nose: Tobacco, caramel, vanilla, oak
- Palate: Sweet citrus, caramel. Light oak. Hint of spice yet still smooth.
- Redemption High-Rye Bourbon:
- Mash bill: 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% barley malt
- 92 Proof
- Age: NAS (at least 1 year)
- Nose: Spice, and lots of it, sweet.
- Palate: Spice from the high rye content, some of the sweetness from the straight bourbon comes through. Smooth and dry finish.
- Redemption Rye:
- Mash bill: 95% rye, 5% barley malt
- 92 Proof
- Age: NAS (at least 2.5 years)
- Nose: Spicy, hints of citrus.
- Palate: Rye spice, citrus, smooth for a 95% rye.
- Redemption 7 year old Barrel Proof Rye:
- Mash bill: 95% rye, 5% barley malt
- 122.6 proof (!!)
- Age: 7 years
- Nose: Spicy, complex, peppery,
- Palate: Strong due to the high proof but very well balanced. The complex nose comes through in spades, even more so with a splash of water added.
After the cocktail mentioned above we moved on to the first course of the evening from Chef Drew, who we were told flew back from Europe specifically to plan and execute this dinner.
Seared 1/2 artichoke with charred lemon, tarragon aioli, chopped parsley, and EVOO. Paired with Redemption Straight Bourbon Whiskey.
Kobocha Soup, green Tabasco sour cream, chopped bacon, toasted pepitas, cracked pepper, and chopped parsley. Paired with Redemption High-Rye Bourbon.
Breadcrumb crusted deviled chicken thigh, with crispy fingering potatoes and caramelized leeks, chopped parsley and au jus. Paired with Redemption Rye.
Shallot Brussels sprouts, braised short rib, beef au jus, pickled Fresno peppers, chopped parsley. Paired with Redemption Rye 7 year old Barrel Proof.
Cheesecake fritters, raspberry basil sauce, chopped basil, powdered sugar. Paired with Villa Massa Limoncello.
The whiskey was indeed quite good. Both the straight bourbon and the barrel strength rye were our standout favorites. The bourbon comes as no surprise given that’s the type of whiskey we love. There were many rye fans at the dinner who preferred the rye to the bourbon, no doubt it was a hit as well. The special event menu at The VIG did not fail to impress. The chef and his team delighted us with an excellent presentation and flavors that paired well with each whiskey. We’ve also enjoyed weekend brunch at The VIG and recommend you do too!
A special thank you to Kacey Hocking, Marketing & Event Coordinator for The VIG, for inviting us to dinner.