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MGP Usually Makes Whiskey for Other Brands. But Its Own Bourbon Is One of the Year’s Best.

You have most likely enjoyed MGP whiskey at some point, even if you were not aware you were doing so. That’s because this Lawrenceburg, Indiana distillery-factory makes bourbon, rye and other spirits that many other brands purchase and bottle under their own names. But apparently MGP has been holding onto some of its best juice for itself, and the whiskey world is better for it.

Yes, I’m aware that MGP is now known as Ross & Squibb, at least when referring to its in-house brands, since it merged with Luxco Spirits in 2021, but it’ll always be MGP to my whiskey-soaked heart. And said heart has been totally smitten with the new Remus Gatsby Reserve, a high-end version of the distillery’s core Remus Bourbon and Remus Repeal Reserve brands (the latter is very good, by the way). RGR, as we’ll refer to it for expediency’s sake from here on out, is hands-down one of the best whiskeys I’ve had the pleasure of tasting this year, and just in time too since we’ve nearly reached 2023.

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What separates this from the other Remus bourbons is mainly the age. RGR, apparently released as a tribute to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby (name aside, not sure exactly what the connection is here), is a 15-year-old bourbon bottled at cask strength of 97.8 proof. Okay, those two factors probably sound familiar to whiskey fans—an older but not ancient bourbon bottled at close to 100 proof, cool. But this whiskey is just fantastic and absolutely worth a try.

Master distiller Ian Stirsman is the man behind the bourbon… well, sort of. He was named Ross & Squibb (ahem, MGP) master distiller in January so obviously he had nothing to do with distilling this bourbon, although likely much to do with selecting the barrels and blending. “Like the Remus Repeal Reserve series, Remus Gatsby Reserve gave us a chance to showcase some of the best bourbons we have,” he said in a statement. “In this case, some of the finest 15-year-old bourbons in our reserves. Remus Gatsby Reserve is certain to be a highly sought-after member of the Remus Bourbon family, particularly given its limited production.”

I think this bourbon deserves all the sought that gets after it. It’s a beautiful reddish amber brown color, with dusty leather and dried fig on the nose. Take a sip and your pleasure center immediately goes into overdrive, with big juicy notes of vanilla, caramel cone sundae, pecan, sweet tobacco and raisin coating the palate. There’s not much heat on the start or finish despite its relatively high proof, but you won’t miss that at all.

For years MGP was known as a bastion of rye whiskey, with brands like Bulleit, George Dickel, James E. Pepper, Smooth Ambler and Templeton building their reputations by bottling this well-crafted whiskey. But of course the Indiana-distilled bourbon is good as well, with brands like Brothers’s Bond, Savage & Cooke, Pinhook, Penelope and Smoke Wagon getting in on the action. RGR is priced at $199.99, and is already selling for well beyond that at secondary retailers. So if you come across a bottle in the wild, consider yourself lucky and give it a try to see just how good the reserve MGP whiskey can be.

Score: 98

What Our Score Means

  • 100: Worth trading your first born for

  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet

  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram

  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market

  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable

  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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