Comparison: Bottle Kill Remus Repeal Reserve III / Uncorking Remus Repeal Reserve IV

REMUS REPEAL RESERVE III
Released Fall 2019

MASH BILL – 90% is a 75% corn / 21% rye / 4% malted barley recipe, and 10% is a 60% corn / 36% rye / 4% malted barley recipe

PROOF – 100

AGE – 12% 11 year, 88% 12 year

DISTILLERY – MGP (They put “G. Remus Distilling Company” on the label but that’s marketing.)

PRICE – $89

REMUS REPEAL RESERVE IV
Released Fall 2020

MASH BILL – 77% is a 75% corn / 21% rye / 4% malted barley recipe, and 23% is a 60% corn / 36% rye / 4% malted barley recipe

PROOF – 100

AGE – 12 years

DISTILLERY – MGP (They put “G. Remus Distilling Company” on the label but that’s marketing.)

PRICE – $85

This week’s Whiskey Wednesday also happens to be the 101st anniversary of the ratification of the 1919 Volstead Act. The Volstead Act allowed for the enforcement of Prohibition by a special unit of the Treasury Department. It utterly failed to stop mass manufacture and distribution of alcoholic beverages. Organized crime flourished. It wasn’t until 1933 that the government sobered up and passed the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition and cancelling out the Volstead Act. I thought this would be an appropriate day to share thoughts on Remus Repeal Reserve, named after George Remus, one of the most prolific of the Prohibition era bootleggers.

This past August I took a chance on Remus Repeal Reserve III, not available in California but very well received by whiskey fans in the states where it is distributed. I was excited by the prospect of a premium MGP bourbon release crafted by MGP itself, rather than the many MGP offerings offered by secondary bottlers—often at secondary market prices even before they hit the secondary market!

I really liked it. So it was with great enthusiasm that I promptly ordered up the newly released Remus Repeal Reserve IV. Their specs are similar, with the IV featuring 12 year bourbons across the board in its blend, and each featuring a different ratio of the MGP 21% rye and 36% rye bourbon mash bills.

As my bottle of batch III was nearing its end, I noticed a change in its flavor profile taking place. Fearing it might be oxidizing, I cracked IV to do a comparison before it was too late.

Here in brief are the notes on the last pour of III next to the very first pour of IV—sibling bourbons at different stages of life. Each were sampled in a simple brandy glass.

COLOR

III – a nice rusty autumn orange with shades of amber

IV – the same, and with scrutiny perhaps a notch lighter

NOSE

III – sparkly cinnamon, smoothly sanded oak, caramel infused with rye herbs and spices, some peanut

IV – a bit less forthcoming by comparison, but similarly redolent of cinnamons, smooth oak, rye herbs and spice, with the caramel just slightly more forward—as with the color difference, almost imperceptibly

TASTE

III – a bright and juicy river of caramel carrying oak and cinnamon sticks, the rye notes more in the surrounding air than the river

IV – caramel and rye spices, chocolate, oak, a slippery and smooth texture like a very melted chocolate sauce

FINISH

III – the caramel, now the rye herbs and spices return more prominently, along with a dark roasted peanut note, all leaving a tingly pepperiness in their wake

IV – oak, rye spices, then the chocolate and caramel, and that nice tingly pepperiness left to slowly simmer

OVERALL

III – excellent, though brighter and a bit less complex now than it once was closer to uncorking

IV – Freshly uncorked, a superb balance of classic bright and dark bourbon flavors

BUY AGAIN?

III – If I found it on sale I might

IV – Same, though I’m tempted to simply buy the V then VI then VII, etcetera…

These are good bourbons. Personally, I’m never interested in what I like “best.” I enjoy the comparison. Remus Repeal Reserve III and IV are so very similar—though of course a more scientific test would be to try them both at uncorking or after a similar amount of time airing out. Anyone who enjoys III will enjoy IV for the same reasons. I’ll be curious to see if the IV loses its darker chocolate notes over time as the III did. Those notes add a layer of complexity I really appreciate and now miss in the III.

Given I’d tried the III in my antique tumbler and preferred it that way, I poured some IV into the same tumbler as well. The color deepens, given the wide flat bottom of the tumbler and its etchings that refract light. The nose leans heavily into more variances within the oak notes—sanded oak, weathered oak, fresh cut oak—with the cinnamons and rye notes complimenting the wood well, and the sweets really stepping back. It’s a wonderful nose. Then the taste brings a rich caramel and more of the cinnamon baking spices back to balance the dryer oak and herb notes, with the chocolate running beneath it in true river fashion like a dark undercurrent. The finish retains the balance of these elements.

Indeed, Remus Repeal Reserve, whether III or IV, loves this old tumbler. The difference from the brandy glass is striking. Both are good. But something about the tumbler allows the full layers of complexity in the bourbon to emerge with greater strength, depth, and clarity. I can’t explain the science of that. But I’ll be drinking this bottle of the IV in this tumbler from here on out, for sure. I’ll also try it in other glasses to see how it responds.

I very much enjoy what MGP has crafted with their Remus Repeal Reserve line. I have not had the opportunity to try batches I or II. But the fact that III and IV are so consistent with one another leaves me confident that V will be as worthy of the shipping cost. And since I’m also not paying for the distillate to be transferred to and bottled by a second party, for the money this bottle of premium 12-year bourbon is a great deal in today’s bourbon boomed market.

Just as I wrote in my previous notes on III, if you like well aged bourbons with refined oak notes, Remus Repeal Reserve IV is likewise an excellent buy. And the man the bottle is named after, George Remus, provides a great backstory for when one serves this whiskey to friends. So, for many reasons—from the significance of MGP to the American bourbon market, to the bootlegger Remus himself, to the era of American history this bourbon commemorates—Remus Repeal Reserve is as great an example of “history in a bottle” as a bourbon can be.

Cheers!

Appendix:
George Remus

George Remus immigrated to America from Germany with his family in 1882 at the age of four. The Remus family eventually settled in Chicago, where George grew up to become a successful pharmacist, then a famous lawyer known for having advanced the “temporary insanity” defense. When Prohibition went into effect in 1920, Remus noticed how well his criminal clients were doing and put his legal knowledge toward navigating a bootlegging career himself. He was soon dubbed “King of the Bootleggers” for his rapid success and the lavish parties he would throw. In 1927 he was arrested for murder, but got off by pleading… that’s right, “temporary insanity.” That incident done, he segued out of bootlegging and moved to Kentucky, where he lived quietly until dying in 1952 at the age of seventy-three.

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