Rebel Yell French Oak Finish Bourbon Barrel Proof – Sample Vault Review

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Welcome to my Sample Vault Reviews. Here you’ll see the amazing once-in-a-lifetime samples in my ‘vault’. A lot of these have been generously sent to me or swapped for a sample of something I own! These samples are  from 3-20cl sample bottles and are from bottles that I don’t currently own. I may not get another chance to try any of these whiskies again and I cannot think of a better way to enjoy them than to share my experiences of them with you, my reader! I usually base my reviews on multiple tastings but these will be based on a ‘one sitting review’- if you have the same whiskey but got different tasting notes, let me know! I am always curious to hear from other peoples palates. Enjoy responsibly my friends!

Sláinte! – Paddy


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 only 6,000 bottles released, the mature Kentucky bourbon was finished in toasted French Oak wine barrels for 6 months to add a more robust, oak-forward profile. Bourbon fans across the continent flocked towards the release, buying up as many bottles of the affordably priced limited release as they could, and leaving many (myself included) wondering what this whiskey tasted like at cask strength before being proofed down to its 90 proof (45% abv) bottling strength.

Some dreams can come true! Thanks to my friend @bourbon_cask a sample of this whiskey at cask proof found its way to me, so let’s jump in!

Vital Stats:

Name: Rebel Yell Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in French Oak Barrels – unfiltered/uncut sample
Age: NAS
Proof: 122.86 proof (61.43% 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 caramel bordering on butterscotch before toasted oak, big fried red fruit, earthy baking spices, and charred oak notes emerge alongside a kick of ethanol. The longer you nose the more barrel notes develop alongside the wheat sweetness on the nose including cloves, and cacao.

Palate: The palate opens with viscous maple syrup bordering on burnt brown sugar, and tart red fruit, before a kick of oak spice washes across the tongue alongside barrel-driven notes of bitter dark chocolate. As the spice fades the barrel notes remain alongside some baking spice notes. Rolling it around your mouth and tongue further it reverts to toasted oak notes that are bordering on salted caramel.

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 

First of all, how cool is it to try something you absolutely love uncut, & unfiltered? In this form it’s packed full of flavour and complexity whilst remaining remarkably balanced between the various flavour components. On the nose it has big wheated red fruit notes and strong oak balanced out against ethanol whilst toasted oak note floats in the background adding butterscotch notes; the palate is a thick, heavily flavoured affair with butterscotch and burnt barrel notes and spice, whereas the finish is long and bursting with oak spice, dried fruit and a warm tannic charred oak aftertaste. At barrel proof it’s definitely not for the faint of heart or palate and unlike its 90 proof brother it’s not afraid to hold those big oak-driven punches. That being said, I can appreciate why they bottled it at 90 proof – hear me out! Yes, at barrel proof this is an amazing experience, but the opportunity to enjoy the flavour nuances afforded by the French Oak casks on the wheated bourbon profile just isn’t there like in the 90 proof. Tasting the 90 proof alongside it has kept the viscosity and flavours without the ethanol punch and oak intensity found at barrel proof. I could drink the 90 proof all night, whereas the Barrel Proof might be good for two or three pours before my legs turn off. The entire point of these bottlings wasn’t to knock people’s palates out. Instead, it was about showcasing the nuances that these atypical barrels add to a wheated bourbon profile that we’re all familiar with. The 90 proof does this skilfully, the BP does it brutishly. Also, being a more tannic oak species, the added fiery tannic spice from the French Oak at barrel proof overdoes it a touch on the palate and burns you if you’re not careful before moving a finish that, although flavourful, is long, hot as hell, and holds heat on the tongue long after the sip is gone. Yes, this may sound like the perfect bourbon for some but for me I’d rather have the 90 proof close to hand.

Try or Buy?

Rebel Yell have really pulled it off with these limited edition barrel finishes. Already 2 down and I’m already excited for what’s to come! If you live outside the US and haven’t picked up either the French Oak or Cognac Cask finishes I can highly recommend a bottle or two of each!

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