*Sincere thanks to MGP and Gregory+Vine PR for the sample.
It’s a well-known fact that Midwest Grain Products of Indiana (MGP) formerly known as Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI), formerly known as the Jos. E. Seagram Lawrenceburg Plant, is responsible for a great many whiskeys one sees out on the shelves. They have been providing some very high quality bourbon and rye to other brands for years but until recently, they’ve not bottled anything under their own label. That changed in 2015 when MGP put out a limited release called Metze’s select, which was named after MGP’s master distiller at that time, Greg Metze. That bourbon was a fitting ode to a man whose expertise had launched over a hundred other brands. In 2016, MGP went a step further and purchased the George Remus brand. Today, that line features the widely available George Remus Straight Bourbon and the more limited edition, the Repeal Reserve. Most recently, after years of being renowned for making great rye whiskey for other people, MGP finally released its own rye this past June under the Rossville Union name.
The Rossville Union ryes take their name from one of the original distilleries that was founded in or around Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Most sources state that the Rossville distillery began in 1847, but casual research doesn’t show who actually opened the business. In 1875, whoever owned it sold it to Cincinnati distillers James Walsh & Co., who expanded and successfully ran the plant until Prohibition. After being damaged by fire a year earlier, The Rossville distillery was sold to Seagram in 1933. Seagram in turn, expanded it even further. When Seagram finally imploded around 1999-2000, the distillery was sold off to Pernod Ricard, who ran it for a few years until 2007, selling it to CL Financial who renamed it LDI. CL Financial collapsed in 2009, but the distillery just kept working away. In 2011, it was sold yet again to Kansas-based, industrial distillers MGP Ingredients and I think that brings us up to date.
So exciting. Where was I? The Rossville Union brand is currently made up of two expressions, The Rossville Union Master Crafted Barrel Proof Straight Rye Whiskey and this one, the Rossville Union Master Crafted Straight Rye Whiskey. Both are made up of a blend of two MGP rye mashbills: their 95% rye and their 51% rye. The label states this whiskey is “at least four years” old, but the brand’s PR claims it’s made up of five and six year old whiskeys. Let’s just play it safe and say this one’s between four and six years old. This Rossville Union Straight Rye was bottled from a selection of 159 barrels at a respectable 47%.
The Nose: Sweet and spicy, a taut, complex nose. The sweetness is more upfront – Demerara sugar, honey, cherry cough syrup, orange pith, and a bit of apple cobbler. The rye is toasty, bready, and lightly peppery, with just a little of that herbal/dill 95% recipe. Behind all that, there are subtle, almost sherry-esque suggestions of wine, shellac on cherry wood, and bitter cocoa nibs. The oak is fresh and sanded smooth, with clove, white pepper, and earthy mint.
The Palate: Nice, somewhat creamy mouthfeel full of more sweetness -brown sugar, dark honey, juicy orange, and more cherry syrup. After that, there’s a bit of unsweetened cocoa powder and candied almonds. The rye is bolder here, still toasted and grainy, but brighter and more herbal than the nose. The oak is pleasantly grippy and tannic with more clove, ground pepper, cinnamon stick, nutmeg and mint.
The Finish: Perhaps on the short side, with the dark sugars and fruit fading fast, leaving herbal rye and spicy oak. That nice catch of mint tails off at the end.
Thoughts: Great stuff. In creating this brand, MGP had the heady challenge of making a rye that didn’t taste the rye they make for everyone else, but at the same time, showing off the rye they make…which of course is usually made for everyone else. I think they’ve risen to the challenge. That familiar 95% rye recipe does come through but it’s subtle and nicely integrated. Their newer, more traditional 51% rye recipe seems to serve as the sturdy backbone here, tying together the mashbills and the oak, and providing an unexpected sweetness. Thanks to its relatively high ABV, it works great on its own, over ice, or in a cocktail. It’s great to see MGP finally bottling up their own rye, it’s no surprise that it’s very good, hell, that’s pretty much expected at this point, but nonetheless, it’s very good. Definitely recommended.
- Cohen, Jason. “The Biggest Distillery You’ve Never Heard of Is in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.” Cincinnati Magazine, 2 Aug. 2016, http://www.cincinnatimagazine.com/high-spirits-blog/mgp-ingredients-lawrenceburg/.
- Klindrup, Dennis. “Lawrenceburg Distillery.” The Whisky Portal: Lawrenceburg Distillery, http://www.whiskyportal.com/distillery.asp?DistilleryID=1133&DistilleryName=Lawrenceburg Distillery.
- “Master Crafted Straight Rye Whiskey.” Rossville Union, http://www.rossvilleunion.com/.
- “MGP of Indiana.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 Sept. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MGP_of_Indiana.
- “The Rossville Distillery, RD#7, 6 Th District, Dearborn County, IN (1898-1920).” Pre-Pro.Com, http://www.pre-pro.com/midacore/view_distillery.php?did=DST499.