I was riding around with my colleague Dean last week when he asked me: “Are you still writing about alcohol?”
“I started again a couple of months ago, but there was a long gap in between and we both know what can happen when you’re out of the market too long,” I answered.
Dean knew what I was alluding to because we had been talking about a similar phenomenon earlier in the day: the perils of running out of inventory and the loss of market share that can follow if you’re out for too long. Case in point: the great Rittenhouse Rye shortage of 2010. If you don’t remember the events of that year, I’ll catch you up. Pre-Prohibition cocktails were all the rage, rye whiskey was the spirit de jour, Rittenhouse was the best affordable option, and national supplies were based on what Heaven Hill had produced between 2005-2006 (back when rye couldn’t have been less fashionable). If I’m remembering correctly, Rittenhouse Rye was incredibly difficult to come by for over a year’s time, leaving the market practically begging for suitable substitutes at a reasonable price. That was the moment MGP distillery (then known as LDI) became the go-to producer for Rittenhouse alternatives. High West, Bulleit, and other popular labels flooded the shelves, all sourcing their stocks from the Indiana powerhouse, but one particular brand had already struck first, proving true the old adage of “the right place at the right time.” That brand was Redemption Rye.
Today, the Redemption label is owned by Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits and it comes in a sort-of-squat, flat-faced flask, but back then it was run by a guy named Dave Schmier and it came in a tall, super-skinny bottle with a screw cap. It was clean, no-nonsense, tasty, and inexpensive. We couldn’t get enough of it in the retail game. With Sazerac facing its own shortages and older, more expensive alternatives like Vintage 23 year and Rendezvous pricing out general consumers, the choice became clear by default: Redemption was the best choice, and often the only choice for those exploring the resurgence of cocktail culture. In 2015, Schmier and team capitalized on their success and sold the MGP-based portfolio to Deutsch, but they never lost their long-standing relationship with the distillery. As I’m learning here at PacEdge, Dave is back with a new line of MGP-distilled whiskies under the Ambassador, Senator, and various Deadwood labels.
What I’ve also learned over the last week is that Dave Schmier’s ability to be successful in the whiskey game has a lot more to do with his ability to select quality casks than a case of serendipitous timeliness. For example, I’m sure there are far more whiskey drinkers out there excited by the 11 and 12 year old age statements on Dave’s releases than the 3 and 6 year old expressions, but personally I found my taste buds far more piqued by the younger whiskies. The Tumbling Dice “Heavy Rye Mashbill” Straight Bourbon at a 3 year minimum is absolutely delicious, brimming with rye spices on the nose, sweet and supple across the mid-palate, but bold and peppery on the finish with a kick from the 50% ABV. At a hair over $40 or so, it’s not really a bargain compared to Wild Turkey or other large brand options, but the quality is in the glass—believe me. I found myself going back for multiple re-tastes to confirm my excitement. The 6 year old 121.4 proof Senator rye whiskey was another big hit for me, again with plenty of immediate sweetness that slowly transformed into dill, rye, and other peppery notes on the finish.
I’m super pumped to hit the streets with these options in my bag.