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Redemption Whiskey has made a name for itself in the world of rye thanks to an accessible price point and big flavor that’s perfect for cocktails. It doesn’t hurt that consumers have come to better appreciate the skill that goes into selecting sourced barrels of whiskey.
That said, it’d be easy to assume that sourced whiskey brands have a limit on innovation outside of various barrel finishes and blending techniques. Redemption Sur Lee makes it very clear that’s not the case. It’s proof that not only can the Redemption team masterfully blend whiskey, but it can push boundaries to create an affordable whiskey that’s as interesting as anything else on the market right now.
ABV: 47 percent (94 proof)
Where it’s available: New York, Delaware, Florida, California, Texas, and Massachusetts
How Redemption Sur Lee Is Made
Like other Redemption whiskeys, Sur Lee is sourced from the Indiana mega-distiller MGP. It’s made with 95 percent rye and five percent barley. What makes it different is the aging process. In France, some winemakers age their wine sur lie, which means the wine has contact with the lees (the solid material including plant matter and dead yeast) as it ages.
The terminology is a little different for whiskey, though Redemption does put it front and center that this special release is inspired by the French winemaking technique. Whiskey lees (yeast and spent grain) are called backset. Redemption puts the backset (or lees, if you’d rather go with the brand’s terminology) into the barrel as the whiskey ages. Those barrels are rotated occasionally to get as much contact between the aging liquid and the backset as possible. Finally, the whiskey is non-chill filtered — meaning it may be a bit cloudy when cold, but that’s perfectly safe and normal and allows for a more round flavor profile.
What Redemption Sur Lee Tastes Like
Fruity apple and pear at first sniff with a touch of caramel barrel notes. Rye spice and a little bit of nutty sweet dough as you sip it. Finish is all warm maple with some rye spice to round it out. A couple of drops of water reduces the kick without turning this into a one-note spirit. This is a sipping whiskey that punches way above its price point.
Why You Should Add Redemption Sur Lee to Your Bar Cart
Sure, putting the whole process described above onto the front of the bottle didn’t lead to the best looking label in the world (or in this case, the best looking silkscreen label with metallic accents). But you and those you decide to share this with will forget that immediately after pouring a glass neat or on the rocks. It’s a conversation starter (there isn’t anything else like it, after all) and the taste stands out in all the right ways — two things that don’t always go together.
Even if it doesn’t make it to the front of your bar cart, there aren’t many rye whiskeys at this price point that can deliver as unique of a story and flavor.