”The only constant in life is change” -Heraclitus
The Remus Repeal Reserve lineup is notable for being produced by Ross & Squibb, formerly known exclusively as Midwest Grain Products, now MGP. The company retains use of the MGP name for products they sell to other companies, while Ross & Squibb is the name they now use for their own brands. Notably, they are one of the largest distillery operations in the United States. This is a fact that may have eluded more casual bourbon enthusiasts, but MGP has been supplying over 50 different whiskey brands with their distillate for years.
The brands that source from MGP are as numerous as the things they choose to do with that sourced whiskey. Whether it be to blend it – typically with other MGP barrels or their own fledgling distillate – finish it in a second cask, or send it to market as-is, selling sourced whiskey is a well known method of building a brand that is sometimes looked down upon. However, because the practice is so widespread, it’s often taken as a given for new whiskey brands.
The reason for this usually comes down to a simple little thing called “money.” It is prohibitively costly to start a whiskey distillery because – as an aged spirit – one must incur the cost of building and establishing a distillery first, and then wait for that whiskey to age in barrels for years before being able to sell it, let alone turn a profit. “Sourcing whiskey”, or purchasing whiskey from another distillery to sell, then bottling it under your own brand, is how many companies seek to reach profitability quicker.
Restating the above: MGP is the most well-known source of many upstart and even well known brands on the market today. Due to this reputation, it was probably inevitable that they would step from behind the curtain of NDAs and anonymity to produce their own brand of whiskeys, which they began doing in late 2018 with the introduction of George Remus Bourbon.
Not to be confused with the Remus Repeal Reserve lineup, George Remus Bourbon is a slightly tamer, non-age-stated expression that aims to meet the more casual drinker in the $40 price range. Today’s subject can be considered their premium offering. Coming in at 100 proof for every release – save the inaugural expression – this particular blend consists of 9% 2005 bourbon (21% rye), 5% 2006 bourbon (36% rye), 19% of another 2006 bourbon (21% rye), 13% 2008 bourbon (21% rye), and 54% of another 2008 bourbon (36% rye). Thus, while it doesn’t bear an age statement, we can conclude that this bourbon is at least 13 years old. SRP was $90 on release.
Finally, worth mentioning is the eye-catching art deco style bottle which evokes the original Roaring 20′, an homage to the era in which the bourbon’s disreputable namesake became infamous. It’s a nice touch; though one can only derive so much pleasure from the package itself, I do like the way this bottle looks on the shelf and feels when handling it. The topper is slightly conical, which makes it a bit more fun to open. Inscriptions on the cork are visible while it’s in the bottle – yet another fun detail that makes the packaging a winner in my eyes. Now for the stuff that goes inside…
Remus Repeal Reserve Series V – Review
Color: Spiced cider.
On the nose: An elusive fruitiness that initially comes across as blueberry later morphs into an apple hand pie with orange zest. The fruit is alluring, but as it sits longer in the glass it becomes shifty, vacillating between different berries. A savory note appears next along with chocolate and baking spice (think thyme and allspice) before a lightly sugared walnut joins the show. There’s also a rich oak hiding in the back that needs to be coaxed out and nearly veers into a cigar box sort of note. Finally marshmallow is floating over the entire affair, though not in an overpowering “toasted oak” way.
In the mouth: Initially there’s a lot going on – though this shouldn’t be confused with complexity as it begins a bit muddled with dark sweetness being the primary take away. You get a nice oak presence before a touch of allspice and white pepper finds the back of the palate. With a second sip I get a chalky Toblerone chocolate note along with the orange oil that was present on the nose, though none of the other fruits make an appearance. The mouthfeel does just enough to entertain though not so much that it becomes the entertainment. Finally, the finish has a medium length that, again, satisfies but falls short of impressing.
This is where we revisit our friend Heraticlus: the constant I’ve found with this bottle is “change.” On some nights the oak is very prominent to the point of being almost over-oaked, while on other nights the fruit flavors rise to the occasion and provide a lovely medley of sweetness to balance things out. From night to night this pour seems to be more elusive than most, and while I almost always enjoy it thoroughly, there are the occasional off nights that make me wonder what’s really going on here?
All of this makes it tough to judge, as I found myself initially underwhelmed by Series V when I first opened it, but that soon turned into a full-on love affair. I even went so far as to consider it one of my top 10 releases of 2021; it really is that remarkable on the right night.
However, once I got to the end of the bottle, it’s true nature emerged, and that’s one of a chimera. It opened up wonderfully to start and played the part of a winner for much of the bottle, but the final quarter or so has confounded me more than it’s rewarded me.
In considering the entire experience I feel I have to credit it for just how unique that evolution is. Remus Repeal Reserve’s shifting nature has been an interesting journey, but I can’t help but wish my impression of it at its zenith had been my impression of it from start to finish. Change” being this whiskey’s only constant is interesting, but keeps it from securing a higher score.