On Familiar Tastes Pt5: George Remus Cask Strength Single Barrel

GEORGE REMUS
Single Barrel selected by Leap Day Whiskey Society (2020)

MASH BILL – 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley

PROOF – 125.2

AGE – NAS (~6 years)

DISTILLERY – MGP

PRICE – $63

WORTH BUYING? – Definitely!

Initially, I thought this five-post series was just one post, about a great experience I’d had one night with a Woodinville cask strength single barrel. Its unique flavor profile shook me from a doldrum I was passing through with those everywhere-all-the-time bourbons, MGP and Barton—sourced left and right by countless secondary bottlers, and therefore very familiar flavor profiles.

That one post became three when I decided to give due attention to the MGP-sourced Belle Meade Cask Strength Reserve and Barton-sourced (mostly) Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery #4. These were the two exceptionally well-blended sourced whiskeys that had brought on my first-world problem of being utterly bored by two excellent bourbons.

Then it occurred to me to go back to the sources themselves. I went to Barton’s own bottling of their 1792 Aged Twelve Years release. And today I’m going back to that other source, MGP, via their own George Remus label.

So here we are. This study in familiarity now draws toward its end!

The choice of this single barrel release of MGP’s George Remus is quite different in a key respect from the three other Barton/MGP whiskeys in this series. Those all featured some amount of whiskeys aged in their teens, whereas this NAS bottling is likely—though not certainly—about half as old at around 6 years. When I compared the 1792 with the Discovery #4, there were other significant statistical differences. But at least the age of the Barton distillates involved were relatively close. Ideally I’d be using Remus Repeal Batch III or IV for this comparison, given they were aged into their early teens. But sadly those two exceptional MGP outings are long since no longer on my shelf!

This George Remus outing sports a fiery 125.2 proof. Its sourced companion, the Belle Meade Cask Strength Reserve, was bottled at a simmering 113.6 proof. In terms of age, though the Belle Meade is also NAS, its makers have stated it to be a small batch blend of 7 to 11 year whiskeys. Furthermore, the Belle Meade does not state which of the MGP bourbon mash bills it uses (36% rye or 21% rye) and quite possibly blends both. Whereas the George Remus features the 21% rye mash bill only. So, an 11.6 difference in proof, some unknown variance in age by roughly 1 to 5 years, and possibly different mash bills. But all MGP all the time!

With all that in mind, here are some notes on the George Remus in brief, taken a week after uncorking and two pours into the bottle, tasted in a traditional Glencairn.

COLOR – late Summer sunset amber-oranges

NOSE – fudgy caramel sprinkled with cinnamons, soft dry rye grasses, some chocolate, very faint apricot

TASTE – rich caramels, a creamy texture like a caramel sauce, dry herbs and rye, a fine peppery burn on the back edges of the tongue at the end

FINISH – those rich caramel sauce notes lingering with the soft burn like a warm summer sun setting on the horizon

OVERALL – the decadence and prominence of the rich caramel notes really takes me by surprise here, nicely accented by the spices and herbs

Wow. More than many MGP bourbons I’ve had, this George Remus single barrel really leans into a particularly luxurious caramel sauce thing in both flavor and texture. The spices are present to add a dash of granular grit to both those aspects as well. And that nice smoldering warmth is so in line with the color of the whiskey, conjuring that particular inland California summer sunset light.

At uncorking last week, I’d noted that both the nose and finish showed chocolate fudge all the way, with some peanut and almond butter as a secondary flavor. The taste was then quite different, very like a lower-shelf MGP offering, with the chocolate notes dominated by rustic sugary baking spices. Tonight things are much more integrated and consistent overall. The relative youth of the whiskey adds a brightness. But it’s no longer coming off as “bottom shelf,” by which I mean thin or general in its flavor impact.

Because older whiskeys are rarer by nature—the angels drink their share over the years leaving less for those of us on earth—they are generally assumed to also be better. But this George Remus makes a great case for younger whiskeys. I can’t know what the key factor is. But the collective factors that went into this Leap Day Whiskey Society selection resulted in a wonderfully rich, vibrant whiskey. The predominance of caramel notes leads me to say it’s not a “complex” whiskey, in that many flavors aren’t vying for attention or prompting my careful sleuthing. But what it might lack in complexity it makes up for in a singular richness, with those spice and herbal aspects adding enough interest to complicate the decadently gooey caramel just enough.

For (pseudo) science, I poured some of the Belle Meade Cask Strength Reserve to compare. Right away I noticed the Belle Meade was darker, suggesting older whiskeys in its blend. All the varying stats considered, here’s what I got when I tasted them side by side:

On the nose, the Belle Meade offers a slightly amped up version of what the George Remus offers: caramel spiced with cinnamons and herbs. A bit of peanut is showing through as well, more so in the Belle Meade than the Remus. And overall, with both whiskeys I’d say I’m more aware here of the herbal and spice aspects, rather than the caramel.

On the taste, the Belle Meade is rich with caramel and a notably wide range of very fine herbs and spices, like an upscale organic dessert, as well as more oak in the mix. The Remus retains its decadent, gooey caramel aspect, and now some interesting fruit notes really start emerging behind the caramel, like grilled tangerine peel and thick-sliced grilled apricots. Despite the difference in proof, both whiskeys come across very smoothly.

On the finish, the Belle Meade has a nice cooling heat to it, whereas the Remus leans deep into that fine peppery warmth. Both linger a nice, long while, emphasizing the caramel most.

These are definitely family. A very interesting comparison. Despite a range of statistical differences, the overall experiences these sourced and from-the-source MGP bourbons offer are very similar. This underscores the quality of MGP whiskeys. I can’t say either of these two are “better” than the other. But because the George Remus is sightly cheaper, if one is on the fence, that’s a means of making a decision right there.

Or try both! Perhaps what this experiment demonstrates is that sourced verses from-the-source doesn’t really matter when it comes to the tasting experience. The real difference may simply be economics.

And I anticipate bourbon economics are going to continue to evolve erratically. So much teenaged bourbon is hitting the market now, from non-distilling bottlers and name brand distillers alike. In my own buying, I have already noticed myself honing in on distilleries over the name on the label. I don’t care that tonight’s two bottles are named “George Remus” or “Belle Meade.” My allegiance—if that’s the word—is to the MGP tasting experience. And as these two bottles offer a comparable experience in that regard, price is the only thing I really have to compare when it comes to my making a consumer-based choice.

But a tasting-based choice? I choose both!

Cheers!

Thank You for Reading
This 5-Part Series!

If you missed the previous posts in this series, here they are:

Pt 1 – Woodinville Cask Strength Single Barrel

Pt 2 – Bardstown Bourbon Company Discovery Series #4

Pt 3 – Belle Meade Cask Strength Reserve

Pt 4 – 1792 Aged Twelve Years

Pt 5 – You’re here!

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