I generally feel bad going to Total Wine. Not because it smells weird, is overpriced, or the people are rude, but because it’s another big box store pushing out the neighborhood liquor stores I’m most definitely glorifying. Anyways, there’s a Total Wine a mile or two from my house, and we found ourselves there looking for the next BvsB challenger. My original intent was to pick up some High West Double Rye (Utah is practically local from Arizona), but my wife’s eye got caught on Redemption Rye with its oh-so-modern label and perfectly cylindrical body.
Compared to the current champ, Rittenhouse Rye, Redemption looks like a supermodel. But we’re not judging books by their covers here – these battles are won in the glass.
To help, I once again have Matthew, who the week before went to an office holiday party headlined by Ludacris (real life).
As stated above, the challenger this week is Redemption Rye, a 92-proof rye with a nice, medium brown color and sexy label. In the other corner is Rittenhouse Rye, a 100-proof rye with an ugly label and menacing brown color. Rittenhouse is the current champ, but this is what… BvsB 3?
2 oz rye
1/4 oz simple syrup
3 dashes Angostura Bitters
1 big ice cube
Notes: Build this one in a rocks glass. Add the sugar and bitters first, then stir a bit, then add the ice cube, then the rye. Give it a little stir if you like a colder drink, or sip slowly and taste the transition from cool to cold. Add an orange peel if you’re compelled, although don’t feel obligated.
I purposefully leave out the orange peel in these BvsBs because it masks a lot of that barrel aroma, and the smell difference was strong here. While Rittenhouse smelled like predictably delicious aged wood, Redemption gave off this nice cinnamony waft. It was unexpected, but really pleasant.
Initial tastes were a bit trickier though. “Hmm. There’s not a flavor that stands out in either,” Matthew pondered. “You can definitely taste the alcohol more in this one (Rittenhouse).”
I agreed. The Redemption was nice and pleasant, while the Rittenhouse went down with a bit more fire. Bad fire though? I was stumped.
Matthew was more decisive. “”I’d probably go with this (Redemption). It’s a little smoother. Less kicky.”
Knowing my old fashionds evolve as the ice melts a bit, we kept sipping. Sip after sip, the tide seemed to be turning. The Rittenhouse was keeping its structure nicely, but the Redemption was becoming noticeably watered down. Still stumped, Matthew said, “I guess if I were at a bar, I’d get this for my first drink (Redemption), and this for my second drink (Rittenhouse).”
I couldn’t help but notice the mouthfeel difference. Even after a few minutes, the Rittenhouse felt big and pleasantly syrupy. The Redemption was still delicious, but felt thinner… flatter. Finally, I called it and told Matthew to pick the one he wanted to finish (guest always gets his or her preference).
“I’m changing my pick. This one (Rittenhouse) is better.” I totally agreed, but was more than happy to finish what was left of the Redemption old fashioned.
It was a tough battle, but the Rittenhouse pulled out another win in the final rounds. To Redemption’s defense, it smells wonderful and gives off a great first impression, but unless you drink your drinks with gusto, the Rittenhouse is the better drink for longer.