Redwood Empire Whiskey

Redwood Empire Whiskey: Emerald Giant Rye

Meet Luke

Luke is a Level I Certified Whiskey Specialist with a passion for exploring and unearthing the best whiskeys around. Luke has a preference for Rye whiskeys but has tasted over 250 different whiskeys to date varying from bourbons to scotches. He continues to expand upon his whiskey knowledge by tasting dozens of bottles monthly and reviewing them here on Barrel and Brew as he pursues his Masters of Whiskey certification.

Recently, we wrote a review of Redwood Empire’s Pipe Dream Bourbon, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, we enjoyed it enough to pick up a bottle of their rye whiskey, Emerald Giant, to review. One reason we love Redwood Empire is that they don’t just source whiskey, they also distill their own to add to their bottles. It’s a nice change-up from the whiskey’s that simply buy from distilleries, package, and sell.

While I enjoyed Pipe Dream Bourbon, I really prefer rye whiskey. It’ll be interesting to see how Redwood Empire’s Emerald Giant Rye stacks up to their bourbon. If you’re interested in finding out, just keep on reading.

Redwood Empire Whiskey

Redwood Empire Whiskey Origin

Redwood Empire Whiskey was founded in 2011 by Derek Benham, but they didn’t release their first whiskeys until 2015-2016. It took over four years for them to get their bottles on their shelf because they distill their own whiskey and age it a minimum of 4 years. Redwood Empire’s distillery is named Graton Distilling Co and is located in Sonoma County, the heart of the wine making region.

Redwood Empire gets its name from the trees located in the northern parts of California and southern parts of Oregon. Sequoioideae, known as redwoods, are the largest and tallest trees in the world and are only found in regions of California and Oregon.

Redwood Empire Whiskey says they are inspired by John Muir, the “father of our national parks”. Muir was a naturalist, writer, and philosopher, and every bottle features a quote from Muir’s writing. The Emerald Giant Rye we are reviewing today says “most people are on the world, not in it.” Most of Muir’s philosophy centered around the spiritual power of nature.

It should also be noted that for every bottle of Redwood Empire Whiskey purchased, they pledge to plant a tree. They work with One Tree Planted and Trees For The Future to protect our forests.

Redwood Empire Emerald Giant Namesake

Redwood Empire may get its name from the redwood trees in the region, but their individual whiskeys are named after specific trees. In this case, Redwood’s rye whiskey is named after the Emerald Giant Tree. At over 360 feet tall and 1180 years of age, this is the fastest growing redwood in the world. It’s said to gain 1500 lbs. of mass each year.

Redwood Empire Emerald Giant Overview

  • Spirit: Rye Whiskey
  • Owned By: Derek Benham
  • Distilled By: Graton Distilling Co and MGP
  • Aged: 3-5 years
  • ABV: 45%, 90 proof
  • Mashbill: 95% rye, 5% malted barley

While Redwood Empire does use their own distillate for their whiskey, they also source whiskey from multiple distilleries as well. In terms of the Emerald Giant Rye, they source rye whiskey from MGP, which makes sense given they’re the largest producer of rye whiskey in the world. I don’t know how much of their whiskey comes from MGP or how much comes from their own barrels, but it is a nice that they are putting their own touch on an MGP rye.

MGP’s rye mashbill is 95% rye and 5% malted barley, so I presume that Redwood Empire is using the same mash for their distillate. Another note is that Redwood’s Pipe Dream Bourbon was aged 4-12 years and the Emerald Giant is 3-5 years.

Redwood Empire Whiskey Emerald Giant Tasting Notes

Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to get into the meat and potatoes of things. Is Emerald Giant a good rye? What does it taste like. On to the best part – pouring myself a glass!

Nose: Clear rye spice, but it’s fairly light. Vanilla and some fruit mixed in with notes of dill as well.

Palate: The rye spice is apparent. It’s a lighter flavor, but very much there. Pear, along with some lemon, seem to be the most prominent fruit notes, and there’s a nice oaky flavor, too.

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Finish: The fruit fades away into a white pepper spice. Medium to long in length. Not too hot. Fairly smooth and easy.

Taste Summary

Redwood Empire Emerald Giant met my expectations. But let me get something straight…. my expectations were pretty high going in. It does everything well, nothing outstanding, though. It’s smooth, it’s easy, it’s light and flavorful, there’s balance, and a pleasant mouthfeel. On the other hand, it lacks a certain amount of complexity and uniqueness. There’s nothing new or groundbreaking here, just another good bottle of rye whiskey.

Redwood Empire Rye Whiskey: Emerald Giant
(Please forgive us for finishing the bottle before getting pictures… Sometimes the whiskey is flowing a little too easily)

Redwood Empire Emerald Giant Price

I’ve said this many times before, and I’m going to keep saying it: price is often times the most important factor in our purchase habits. So, how much does Redwood Empire Whiskey cost? We take a look at prices from Total Wine from all across the country to determine an average value.

Emerald Giant Rye 750ml Price: $32-39

While the price can be closer to the $40 mark in places such as California or New York, most Total Wine stores had Redwood Empire Rye available for under $35.


The Emerald Giant Rye comes in at a very modest price. The $30-40 range is where, I believe, you find the some of the best sipping whiskey at a reasonable price, and this hits the nail on the head. If you like rye whiskey and MGP ryes, this won’t be something new and extravagant for you. If you’re not as familiar with rye whiskey, there aren’t many better places to start than this. Ultimately, this is just a solid sipping whiskey – no less, but not much more.

Redwood Empire Whiskey Selection

Redwood Empire offers 8 different selections of whiskey, so we figured we’d briefly touch upon them. There are 3 standard selections offered – Pipe Dream Bourbon, Emerald Giant Rye, and Lost Monarch. Each of these three also has a cask strength option.

The last two options were released in the summer of 2022. The Grizzly Beast is a bottled-in-bond bourbon, and Rocket Top is a bottled-in-bond rye. We have now reviewed two of their whiskeys and liked them both, so keep your eye out for more.

Redwood Empire Whiskey Emerald Giant Summary

Redwood Empire’s Emerald Giant Rye doesn’t reinvent the wheel. They don’t get style points for depth and complexity. There’s no fancy double barreling and extra aging. It’s just a tasteful, smooth rye whiskey. I drink a lot of MGP rye whiskey, and I like a lot of MGP rye whiskey. While they have their subtle differences, it’s not too far off from other MGP selections. I’d compare it to Clyde May’s Rye, however Emerald Giant is a little sweeter with less spice.

Another thing I appreciate is that Redwood Empire distills their own whiskey. They don’t simply source whiskey and resell it. Even if their blend only uses a small amount of their own distillate, it’s something different. We’ll have to try their bottled in bond selections soon as those are 100% produced by Redwood Empire and Graton Distilling Co.

At the end of the day, this goes down as a whiskey that will always have a place on our shelf. Nothing extraordinary, just good whiskey. For $35, that’s about as much as you can ask for.

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