By Richard Thomas
When most people think of South Carolina, they likely think of Charleston or Myrtle Beach and not Appalachia, although the northwestern corner of the state and the city of Greenville lie in the foothills of that mountain range. Keeping that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Greenville’s Dark Corner Distillery has some liquor-soaked Appalachian ne’er do wells to call their own.
Enter Lewis Redmond, namesake for the distillery’s bourbon. This late 19th Century renegade wound up in Dark Corner’s neck of the woods after killing a U.S. Deputy Marshal who was trying to arrest him for moonshining, and like many outlaws of the time, became a darling of the newspapers. There is even an anthology of work about Redmond in print, one that dubs him “King of the Moonshiners”.
Lewis Redmond is a high-corn, small barrel bourbon. Aged for two years in 15-gallon new oak barrels, the whiskey is made from a wheated mashbill that is 84% corn, and bottled at 86 proof (43% abv). The batch I sampled from is No. 14, and each batch really is a creature all its own, as the aging periods and barrel sizes have evolved with time. Batch No. 1, for example, reportedly spent 14 months in a five-gallon barrel.
Now two years is a long time for a small barrel whiskey, but at the same time 15 gallons is a bit big for a small barrel. That likely explains why the color of the Lewis Redmond Bourbon is that of brightly polished copper, and not something darker.
The nose is sweet with stewed, spiced dark fruits with a thick, hefty dollop of caramel stirred in. Against that, the flavor is a creature of a very different character, having a light, silky texture that brings a dash of wood, a dash of spice, and a teaspoon of vanilla. When I reviewed the Straight Carolina Rye from Dark Corner, I observed that it too had a light character of the sort that would be a positive boon for a muggy summer day’s drinking. This is in the same vein.
Keeping that in mind, the finish is a bit warmer than I’d like, but only just a bit. It is very pleasant and moderate, and leaves a little of those spiced, stewed fruits in the aftertaste.
The retailers I found were selling Dark Corner Lewis Redmond Bourbon for $60 per fifth.