George Remus, known as the King of Bootleggers, is the namesake for another high-rye bourbon from MGP. We recently reviewed Smoke Wagon, an MGP whiskey as well. So, we figured we stay on trend and compare George Remus Straight Bourbon Whiskey to Smoke Wagon. I’m a huge fan of MGP rye whiskey, but their high-rye bourbon mash bill is also quite good.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at George Remus Bourbon and cover the history, tasting notes, price, and more. I’m most interested in seeing how two MGP high rye bourbons differ from each other, so we’ll touch a bit on Smoke Wagon here as well.
George Remus Bourbon Whiskey History
Originally owned by Queen City Whiskey Co., MGP Ingredients purchased the George Remus brand in 2016. While MGP is most known as a source of whiskey, they do distill whiskey for their own brands at their famous distillery. Once known as Luxco Distillery in Lawrenceburg, IN, the distillery rebranded to Ross & Squibb.
Who is George Remus?
The fun history of the George Remus Bourbon is really the history of the whiskey’s namesake – George Remus himself. George Remus was born in 1878 in Prussia, but his family emigrated to the US and eventually settled in Chicago. Remus’ early life settled around his role as a pharmacist and lawyer. Around 1910, Remus became known for defending bootleggers in court. While prohibition wasn’t a federal law, many states and cities took to banning the sale of alcohol long before the 18th amendment came into effect.
George Remus noted how many of his clients were filthy rich from bootlegging, so when the 18th amendment passed, beginning the period of prohibition, Remus took his knowledge of law and his experience as a pharmacist to become a bootlegger himself. The purchasing and selling of alcohol was still legal for “medicinal purposes”, so Remus sold liquor to his own drug companies, transported it with his own trucking company, “stole or hijacked” his own shipments, and then illegally sold whiskey on the market.
Over the years, Remus racked up hundreds of millions of dollars, threw extravagant parties, and had much of the city’s politicians and law enforcement in his pocket. It is said that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby, from The Great Gatsby, was inspired by Remus. Of course, there are many claims like this about a multitude of people.
George Remus Straight Bourbon Whiskey Overview
- Spirit: Straight Bourbon
- Owned By: Luxco Inc.
- Distilled By: Ross & Squibb Distillery / MGP
- Age: NAS (minimum 4 years)
- ABV: 47%, 94 proof
- Mashbill: Unknown, but likely MGP’s high rye mashbill. (60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malted barley).
While we’re not 100% sure of the mash bill here, MGP has two high rye mash bills, so we know it’s one of them. Based on the taste and description of the whiskey, we assume it’s the one with the higher rye content.
Like all NAS bourbon, George Remus Bourbon must be aged a minimum of 4 years due to the American whiskey regulations. At 94 proof, 47% ABV, this is a bit stronger than your average whiskey but still falls below the 100 proof where a lot of more season whiskey drinkers like it.
George Remus Bourbon Flavor Profile
Now that we’ve covered the basics we can get to the important questions. What does George Remus Bourbon taste like? Is it good? On to my favorite part. Let’s pour a glass and find out.
Nose: Overall, a fairly solid aroma. There’s certainly some rye spice such as allspice, oak that is borderline leather, vanilla and caramel, and maybe a touch of red fruit.
Taste: The rye spice is a touch young and up front, but it’s backed by a heavy dose of oak. Caramel comes through as well, and there is certainly some cherry in there too.
Finish: A mild finish with a buttery mouth feel that has cinnamon throughout the background. Fruit fades into a more nutty finish than on the palate.
There’s a touch of complexity here, which isn’t totally unexpected from a high rye bourbon. It’s certainly different from your typical bourbon profile but with all the expected notes of oak, caramel, and vanilla. There’s a decent viscosity to it and it’s not a difficult sip.
However, there’s also a young quality to it. I usually don’t have a problem with rye whiskey aged for 4 years as some of my favorite rye is aged the same time, yet the rye seems to clash with the corn upfront. A little splash of water or an ice cube smooths it out, but, neat, it lacks balance.
Overall, this is a decent bourbon. As a lover of rye whiskey, I prefer it to many other bourbons, but it’s not at the top of the chart either.
George Remus Bourbon Price
George Remus is a decent sip, so price will play a fairly big role here. How much does George Remus Bourbon cost? We take a look at prices from Total Wine stores across the US to determine an average price.
George Remus Bourbon Price: $36-41
I’m slightly disappointed in the price of George Remus Bourbon. We just reviewed Smoke Wagon Bourbon, another high rye bourbon from MGP aged for 4 years, and it retails much closer to the $30 price tag. Since MGP owns George Remus Bourbon, I figured they would be able to price it a bit cheaper, or at least similarly.
Hmmm. It’s not that this is a bad sip, it just doesn’t feel worth the $38. It’s not crazy expensive or egregiously priced, there’s just so many whiskeys I like more for cheaper or just a touch more expensive. I would likely buy Smoke Wagon before George Remus and for $7 cheaper.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t try George Remus, It’s fairly solid. It simply not a whiskey I LOVE nor a whiskey that is a great value play either.
George Remus Bourbon Summary
George Remus Bourbon isn’t the best whiskey out there, but it’s FAR from the worst. If you like high rye bourbon, then this is a decent option. I prefer Smoke Wagon, but there are many people out there that like George Remus Bourbon much more than I do. It’s not a bottle you’ll pour down the sink or give away to your enemy, so don’t be afraid to pull the trigger if you’re interested.
While there isn’t much information on the history of the bourbon itself, the story of George Remus is quite interesting. I should note, though, that some people have called for them to rebrand since George Remus did kill his wife, plead temporary insanity, and proceeded to get away with it. Remus had also previously gotten a killer off with the same defense while he was a lawyer.