“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The newly minted Ross & Squibb distillery should only be unfamiliar in name, as it’s the new home of MGP’s in-house products. MGP, of course, is one of the most widely known producers of American whiskey, though they’ve largely been known up to this point for making the whiskey that goes into other brands’ bottles. Labels as varied as Bulleit,Smoke Wagon, and Angel’s Envy have all been known to bottle MGP’s rye, which is a not-so-secret industry secret.
Discerning consumers have known about MGP’s sourced whiskey filling some of the most popular brand’s bottles for years now. As aforementioned, however, what is new is that MGP now goes by the name Ross & Squibb for the purpose of products that they bottle themselves, and that includes the subject of today’s review: Rossville Union Bottled in Bond 6-Year Rye.
Rossville Union is a brand that first debuted in June of 2018 and, despite Ross & Squibb’s history of rye production dating back to 1847, the expression largely flew under the radar for the past few years. In an attempt to properly embrace its rebranding efforts, Rossville Union is now outfitted in a brand-new bottle, and it comes in three varieties. The bottled in bond version is aged for 6 years and it’s joined by the “Master Crafted” 5-year expression (which is 94 proof) and a tantalizing 7-year version which is bottled at cask strength.
The news of this release coincides with an exciting time for Ross & Squibb, which has seen them increasingly position their in-house brands as premium products. At the same time, they’ve acquired one of their largest sourcing partners, Penelope Bourbon, and continue to produce and sell whiskey to other brands. This has led to speculation that Ross & Squibb would soon begin saving all the best whiskey for their own brands, a theory that has yet to be fully determined.
On one hand, it wouldn’t make much sense for Ross & Squibb/MGP to only sell second-rate barrels to their clients. Surely there are brands who continue to get some of the Lawrenceburg, Indiana distillery’s most impressive whiskey. That said, it would also be foolish for Ross & Squibb to not hand-select some of their favorite barrels and devote them to the redesigned Rossville Union label among other in-house brands.
In an attempt to get to the bottom of this conundrum, today I’ll be reviewing Rossville Union Bottled in Bond 6-Year Straight Rye Whiskey, and using other MGP-sourced ryes as a mental guidepost to help discern value and ascertain its relative quality. Basically, I want to figure out whether you should buy Rossville Union above all other MGP-sourced rye or not.
Let’s go ahead and discuss the pertinent details before we proceed. Rossville Union Bottled in Bond 6-Year Rye was distilled in March 2017 and features a “barely legal” grain recipe, that’s described as “a new high malt mash bill” of 51% rye and 49% malted barley. We’re told that Master Distiller Ian Stirsman hand-selected the barrels for this blend, and it’s safe to say he has as much if not more experience with the distillery’s whiskey than anyone. This limited 2023 release produced 18,000 bottles and the expression has an MSRP of $50 for a 700ml bottle. As a bottled in bond product, it comes in at 100 proof (50% ABV).
Lastly, it should be noted that I will be judging this whiskey in accordance with Malt’s price-sensitive Scoring Bands as though I paid $50 for this bottle, but it was provided to me free of charge by the brand. Now, with all the odds and ends covered, let’s dive in to review Rossville Union’s new 6-year rye, shall we?
Rossville Union Bottled in Bond 6-Year Rye – Review
Color: Flaxen amber.
On the nose: Mint, vanilla, cinnamon, and barrel char come tumbling out of the glass making for an immediately striking and distinct nose. The aromas are all well-developed and after a few swirls, they continue to grow richer before being joined by notes of dried cranberries, Brazil nuts, and cucumber. The nose indicates that this will be a decidedly rich and unique rye, but let’s see what the palate has to say.
In the mouth: Interestingly, on the first sip I get a ton of apple juice, stirred with a cinnamon stick and garnished with mint sprigs before a nice sprinkle of black pepper kicks in. After repeated sips, one is able to pick up some brown sugar and lemon. The mouthfeel is slightly dense, but the flavors are refreshingly spry, making this a whiskey well worth spending an extended period of time enjoying.
While Rossville Union Bottled in Bond 6-Year Rye didn’t exactly bowl me over, it did serve to surprise me in that it’s a decidedly self-assured and distinct rye whiskey. While so many rye whiskeys on the market (some of them, indeed, produced by MGP) lean hard on simply being grassy, herbaceous, or mint-forward, Rossville Union’s 6-year offering is all of those things and much more. Full of balanced flavor yet perfectly restrained at 100 proof, this whiskey is a credit to Master Distiller Ian Stirsman’s experience. Rossville Union Bottled in Bond is a successful display of Ross & Squibb’s high malt rye mash bill and, at $50, it’s an easy bottle to recommend for those who want to see just what the powerhouse distillery is capable of when they decide to step outside of the box.