Sometimes one of the challenges about writing about spirits is that, despite your best intentions, you'll every now and again encounter a bottle that seems aggressively average across just about every dimension.
In moments like these, it seems like most of the nuance I've tried to cultivate over the last several years just goes right out the window. I could pour myself something like Springbank 12 and suss out notes of leather and pipe tobacco, or sit down with the always great Martin Miller's and wonder all over again about how the gin picks up a taste of pickled ginger. Good spirits taste and smell like other things.
Hell, even bad spirits taste and smell like other things. Often, that makes for at least an entertaining story. If you have a few other friends willing to follow you into a gustatory journey, you could always pick up a few tasters of things that are generally not good at all and compare notes. You might discover, as I and my friends did, that one of the tasting notes for Jose Cuervo Gold was fish oil. Memorable, even if far from good.
Redemption? Well, it just plain tastes like bourbon. I've at times written about Bourbon as being a "compressed" spirit category (not unlike vodka or cognac) where the exacting requirements of how to produce the stuff leads to a frequently samey tasting experience.
In many ways, Redemption Bourbon is prototypical of Bourbon writ large. It starts with some rye spice (in spite of the high corn mash bill) and builds into corn-heavy sweetness. On the finish, there's some cinnamon barrel spice and pepper, along with that distinctive bourbon funk.
There are some more glaring faults, however. Redemption Bourbon is, according to the back of my bottle, "Aged over 2 years." That's not a ringing endorsement, and you can taste the rough edges. It's boozy as it sits on the tongue, smells like turpentine, and goes down with some 'blazin. This could have used some more mellowing out, and competes fairly poorly with the litany of bonded bourbons, such as Evan Williams white label and Old Grand Dad, which just flat-out blow Redemption out of the water at an equivalent or lower price.
But beyond the negatives, Redemption is as vague, really, as the name itself. Redemption from what? Are we imbibers the ones being redeemed as we make our way through the bottle? Or perhaps the product itself is some act of penance! There's some blurb now on the current website about Prohibition being repealed, but I don't know how to square that circle. The name seems to be the product of some kind of dude logic where the brand's founders settled on a name they liked without letting context or narrative get in the way.
In any case, halfway through the bottle Redemption Bourbon met with the same fate as most generic spirits around here, which is to say it got turned into a base for cocktails. And, surprisingly, it did quite well! For those who typically shy away from whiskey drinks because they still seem to taste predominately like whiskey no matter what you seem to do to them, Redemption could (oh, lord) redeem a few recipes.
Also note that Redemption's since had a bottle redesign, and as an non-distillery-product, it means that whatever's in the different-looking bottle could have been contracted from a different distillery. If the back of the new stuff says it was distilled in Indiana and bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky, it's probably the same juice.