**Sincere thanks to MGP Ingredients and Gregory + Vine PR for the sample.
A man named Morris Sheppard, a Democratic senator from Texas, is occasionally referred to as “the father of Prohibition” because of his involvement in three pieces of legislation during the 1910’s. He co-authored 1913’s Webb-Kenyon Act which regulated the interstate shipment and transport of delicious alcoholic beverages. In 1916, he wrote the Sheppard Bone-Dry Act which banned the manufacture and sale of delicious alcoholic beverages in the District of Columbia. And of course in 1917, Sheppard introduced the 18th Amendment into the Senate, paving the way for that fascinatingly complex failure we all know and love called Prohibition.
The reasons behind the rise of the Temperance Movement, the political and societal machinations that ultimately led to the nation-wide ban on alcohol are fascinating and even frightening. While the initial impetus for banning alcohol (that shit just ain’t healthy) might not have been bad, the rampant pietism, nativism, racism, and anti-immigrant sentiment that swelled behind the pure white sheet of temperance is scary stuff. Morris Sheppard himself was a complex, even seemingly conflicted (at least by today’s standards) fellow. Along with being a powerful figure in the Temperance movement, he was also a strong proponent of women’s suffrage and had fairly progressive views on child labor, infant and maternal health, and anti-trust laws. On the other hand, he also worked to continue the segregation and disenfranchisement of African-Americans.
When it came to Prohibition, Sheppard may also have been a bit of hypocrite. Reportedly, during those “dry” years, a working still was found on a piece of land that he owned. It is certainly possible that the still wasn’t his. The man maybe owned many properties and didn’t feel the need to be overly thorough in his inspection of them all. Nonetheless, it’s a fun bit of trivia. As is a quote from Sheppard made in 1930 in regards to the repeal of Prohibition. By this time, it was clear that the 18th Amendment was not serving the nation well, but its supporters remained staunch and blindly optimistic about their cause. Ol’ Morris is on record as saying, “there is as much chance of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.” Shows how much he knew. The 18th Amendment was of course repealed, and as far anyone knows, hummingbirds have yet to make past the lowest end of the Troposphere and the Washington Monument has not engaged in any sort of avian rope play.
I bring all this up because it’s Repeal Day…or at least it was Repeal Day when I originally posted this, and I thought, what better time than Repeal Day to put up a review of the George Remus Repeal Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Series II. The first edition of the Repeal Reserve, Series I, came out late in 2017, a limited release from Indiana’s MGP Ingredients, that joined the more broadly available George Remus Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The first one was a blend, or a “medley” of three different bourbons: 50% was 2005 distilled bourbon made with MGP’s 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malted barley mashbill, 35% was 2006 distilled bourbon with the same mashbill, and the remaining 15% was a 2006 distilled bourbon made with their high rye mashbill which is 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley. Series II consists of four different bourbons that are made with two different mashbills and are about 10-11 years old. Here’s the breakdown of 2018’s Repeal Reserve:
- 15% is a 2007 distilled bourbon with MGP’s 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malted barley mashbill.
- 50% is a 2008 distilled bourbon with MGP’s 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malted barley mashbill.
- 10% is a 2007 distilled bourbon with MGP’s 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malted barley mashbill.
- 255 is a 2008 distilled bourbon with MGP’s 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malted barley mashbill.
Aside from the makeup of this one, another big difference is a bump up in ABV. Series I was bottled at 47% while Series II clocks in at a rather bottled-in-bond-ish 50% ABV. So there we have it, different medley, slightly younger bourbons, slightly higher proof. Happy Repeal Day if you’re into celebrating that kind of thing…
The Nose: A smooth, rich, expressive nose with a bit more heft than Series I. Demerara sugar, dark honey…maybe buckwheat honey (thanks, Worker B), candied orange peel, a nice touch of maple and a subtle hint of molasses. Behind that, Toasted rye bread, slightly smoky vanilla bean and nutty chocolate fudge. The oak is strong and tannic but integrated – worn, polished boards, with notes of cinnamon red hots, candied ginger, a hint of nutmeg and whiff of mint.
The Palate: A bit more robust than the nose lets on, but very smooooth. More dark sweetness initially, more Demerara, more honey, molasses, candied citrus and maple sugars. The rye evolves into something much more complex here, quite bready and toasty, but quite herbal and peppery as well. Notes of unsweetened chocolate and slightly burnt popcorn lead to a big, complex swell of spicy, tannic oak. There’s sanded boards along with more old polished wood, with lots of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger, with black pepper, anise and that touch of mint leading to the finish.
The Finish: A slightly maple-y, burnt-sugar sweetness fades, leaving peppery, minty rye, and grippy, mouthwatering, spicy oak notes
Thoughts: So damn good. I liked the Series I quite a bit, but after tasting them side by side, it’s pretty clear that Series II is an even better whiskey. There’s more weight here, more fullness and depth. Overall, this one handles its ABV very well. The nose is balanced and pleasing, but for me, the palate is where this one really takes off. All the rich sweetness from the nose continues, the rye gets more complex, and the oak and spice bring things to a very more-ish finale. A little water gives all these elements even more room to breath, and over ice, the high ABV holds it all up nicely. With the similar ages and same mashbills used, the lineage is pretty clear between Series I and II, but Series II strikes me as an even more realized, lush whiskey. Not inexpensive at around $85, but excellent bourbon nonetheless. Highly Recommended.
- Burns, Ken, director. A Nation of Scofflaws: Prohibition–A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. PBS, 2011.
- Hanson, David J. “Repeal Trivia: Trivia about the Repeal of Federal Alcohol Prohibition.” Alcohol Problems & Solutions, 2 July 2017, http://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/repeal-trivia-trivia-about-the-repeal-of-federal-alcohol-prohibition/.
- “Morris Sheppard.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morris_Sheppard.
- “Morris Sheppard: A Featured Biography.” United States Senate, http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/Featured_Bio_Sheppard.htm.
- Pinney, Thomas. A History of Wine in America, Volume 2: From Prohibition to the Present. University of California Press., 2007.
- “Prohibition in the United States.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prohibition_in_the_United_States#Development_of_the_prohibition_movement.
- “Remus Repeal Reserve Series II.” George Remus Bourbon, georgeremus.com/reserve-2018.
- “Temperance Movement.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperance_movement.