Since 1949 the Rebel Yell brand has remained largely unchanged after being released by Stitzel Weller to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the original Weller company. Seeing only a few experimental flavours and small batch releases, versus the many variations, age levels, and finishes from other contemporary brands. After the disbanding of the Stitzel Weller distillery in 70’s, the company that would become known as Luxco acquired the Rebel Yell brand and maintained its place in the Weller wheated bourbon pantheon. Now, 67 years after it’s inception, we’re ready to see the real face of Rebel Yell, in the form of a single barrel 10 year aged limited release.
Rebel Yell 10 Year Single barrel is seeing a limited release of 2,000 cases in 2016, with a further 4,000 unleashed in 2017. Like all single barrel releases, each individual barrel will vary slightly in flavor based on rickhouse conditions, where the barrel rested, and the individual characteristics the wood itself brings. Wheated bourbons tend to have a sweeter, softer flavor profile; but coming in at 100 proof, this release has plenty of flavour and kick behind it, much like other legacy Weller wheated bourbons. While each barrel and bottle will vary slightly, that’s half the fun, truly understanding the affects the environment can have on whiskey during the aging process.
Luxco was kind enough to send me a bottle for review, here’s my tasting notes:
Nose: Heavy vanilla and toasted grains, a sweet cigarillo smoke, and caramelized oranges.
Taste: Despite being 100 proof, the wheat really smooths this bourbon out, the bourbon heat leads on the sip but quickly softens to huge amounts of vanilla, cereal grains & toasted oak, a very faint tobacco that fits with the cigarillo nose.
Finish: The vanilla maintains throughout and during the finish floral citrus notes begin to rise, less caramelized oranges and more orange oil, there is a slight bitterness which fits with the orange oil, and all of this fades to a tongue coating oak.
Let me preface that in my poor Florida days, I drank many a bottom shelf bottle of old Yeller as we used to call this and I do not remember it like this. Rebel Yell 10 Year Single Barrel, at least this bottle, might take the title of mass market bottle of the year. Comparing them to other Weller wheated bourbons [distilled by Buffalo Trace and released in the past two years], like Old Rip Van Winkle Ten Year or Van Winkle Family Reserve Lot B, or even against other top shelf brands like Elijah Craig 18 and 23… I would take this $50 retail bottle over them any day. So much balance between soft wheat and vanilla notes, bourbon spice, and my preference for more faint oak notes, this barrel was clearly laid to rest in a sweet spot of the rickhouse.
That being said, your mileage may vary depending upon the bottle / barrel you get and your preferences. I’ll definitely be purchasing another bottle for myself and testing them side by side as well as against other Stitzel Weller / Bernheim / Heaven Hill wheated bourbons. If you’ve had it, what do you think about it? Let us know below.[Luxco providing the bottle for review had no influence on my opinions in this article.]