Rebel Yell French Oak Finish Bourbon Review

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The Rebel Yell brand was originally created in the late 1940’s for the world-renowned Stitzel-Weller Distilling Co. to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Weller company. Initially distilled in very small batches and exclusively distributed in southern states (with Civil War-era confederate labelling to match), Rebel Yell was a private-label wheated bourbon that was bottled and given as gifts to friends and family of the Farnsleys who co-owned the company at the time. With the Civil War centennial in the 1960’s, the brand went public as a 5 y.o. 90 proof bourbon. The brand followed a colourful journey, remaining a Stitzel-Weller product from the 60’s to the 90’s, becoming a 6 y.o. bourbon  in the 70’s and 80’s and inspiring Billy Idol to write his song ‘Rebel Yell’ after he saw the Rolling Stones drinking it backstage at a concert. A year after the song was released, then-owners United Distillers dropped the proof down to 80 and started nationwide distribution of Rebel Yell. In 1992, after United Distillers moved their production to Bernheim from Stitzel-Weller, Rebel Yell began production alongside the other wheated bourbons in the United Distillery portfolio, however,  seven years later, United Distillers sold its Bernheim distillery to Heaven Hill and the various brands produced there to the highest bidders. Rebel Yell’s brand and assets were then sold to the David Sherman Corporation in St. Louis which is now Luxco.

In January 2018, Luxco started operations in their state-of-the-art Lux Row Distillers distillery. Located on a 90-acre site, the facility boasts a 18,000 square feet distillery building, 6 barrel warehouses, a tasting room, an event space, and will eventually have the capacity to produce over 7 million proof gallons a year and store 20,000 to 50,000 barrels on site. Under the watchful eye of Head Distiller John Rempe, it is envisioned that this facility will become the source for Luxco’s extensive brand portfolio as demand for their products continued to grow. Although still a sourced product from distilleries like Heaven Hill, Luxco currently produces seven Rebel Yell products including their classic Rebel Yell straight bourbon, Rebel Yell 100 proof straight bourbon, Rebel Yell 10 y.o. straight bourbon, Rebel Yell straight rye, Reel Yell straight bourbon finished in French Oak, Rebel Yell bourbon infused with ginger root, and Rebel yell bourbon infused with root beer flavourings.

Released in October 2019, Rebel Yell French Oak Barrel Finish was Rebel Yell’s first exclusive international release designed to meet growing demand from whiskey drinkers in the UK, France and Italy. With 6,000 bottles in the first batch, the mature Kentucky bourbon was finished in toasted French Oak wine barrels for 6 months to add a more robust, oak-forward profile.

Vital Stats:

Name: Rebel Yell Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in French Oak Barrels
Age: NAS
Proof: 90 proof (45% ABV)
Type: Kentucky straight wheated bourbon finished in French oak barrels
Mashbill: 68% corn, 20% wheat & 12% malted barley
Producer: Lux Row Distillers
Website: https://rebelyellbourbon.com/whiskey/
Glassware: Glencairn

Review

Nose: The nose opens with toasted oak spice mixed with caramel, earthy baking spices, and faint ground cloves. As you nose it longer more red fruit begins to emerge through the toasted oak notes which in turn becomes almost minty.

Palate: The palate opens semi-viscous and a touch astringent with corn and charred oak notes hitting the tongue first. These quickly fade to soft red and black stone fruit stewed in light brown sugar with a near-butterscotch edge before peppery toasted oak, earthy baking spices, faint cloves, and a touch of herbaceous charred oak emerge to balance the sweetness out.

Finish: The finish opens with lingering white pepper spice and a dash of burnt caramel sweetness before notes of old toasted herbaceous oak emerge, leaving an aftertaste of smoky baking spices and old minty oak.

Overall 

This is one of those whiskies where you might first consider the price and easily think it’s nothing to get excited about – and you would be very, very wrong. There’s a backbone of old charred and minty oak that sits under toasted oak and traditional bourbon notes which makes this taste almost like a dusty bourbon filled with butterscotch. The French Oak barrels have made a huge difference to the flavour profile, complementing the classic wheated bourbon notes, adding oomph to the flavour profile, turning those caramels into butterscotches, and giving those charred oak notes a herbaceous touch that adds just enough bitterness to you keep you coming back for more. I cannot stress enough how good this stuff is for £30. Imagine something loosely akin to a low-proof dusty Wild Turkey profile but at a fraction of the price. It has grain notes, spicy toasted oak notes, near-butterscotch notes, bitter herbaceous char notes, and wheat notes in a blend that just isn’t this affordable anywhere else. Honestly, Rebel Yell have surprised me with this release, and I have to say I am very impressed. Master Distiller at Lux Row Distillers John Rempe may be known for his second cask finishing with popular brands like Blood Oath but this time he has truly outdone himself.

Try or Buy?

This bourbon is delicious, and one of the few eye-opening bourbons that I’ve come across. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is one of the best bourbons on the European market for value for money in my opinion.Buy, buy as many as you can. I will personally be trying to get as many backup bottles as my budget will allow.

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