Rebel Yell (1990) – 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

With its meteoritic rise to modern fame, the Stitzel-Weller Distillery located in Louisville, KY, has a proud legacy for producing some of the highest quality wheated bourbon stocks and brands in recent history. Combine this with the current demand for bourbon and historic bottlings, brands such as Old Fitzgerald, Rebel Yell, Cabin Still, Weller bourbons, and the stocks originally bottled under the Pappy Van Winkle brands still containing Stitzel-Weller stocks have become some of the most sought-after bourbons globally and frequently change hands for astronomic prices.

Thus, when I was recently offered the opportunity to taste some Rebel Yell bourbon from 1990 I was very excited by the prospect of tasting a piece of bourbon history. The 10ml sample was provided by Whisky Auctioneer and featured in a tasting of iconic bourbons going under the hammer in their dedicated American whiskey auction, featuring a ground-breaking collection of over 500 American whiskeys and running from the 13th – 23rd of August. From the Whiskey Auctioneer website, the history of the brand is detailed as follows:

The Rebel Yell brand was created for Stitzel-Weller distillery in the late 1940s by Charles R. Farnsely, a former mayor of Louisville, KY. The brand was first bottled around the distillery’s 100th anniversary, with the intention of producing and distributing it in small batches, exclusively in the Southern states.
Following the sale of Stitzel-Weller by the Van Winkle family 1972, it eventually came into the hands of United Distillers (now Diageo) who opted to make the brand available more widely. This bottle dates from that period, and was produced in the very early 1990s, before the distillery closed for good in 1992. The decision not to remove the Confederate flag from the packaging saw the brand struggle to sell in export markets however, and when United Distillers closed Stitzel-Weller in 1992, the decision was made to discontinue the brand. It was then sold to the David Sherman company (now known as Luxco), who did not make the same mistake. They continue to produce it today using bourbon sourced from Heaven Hill.

Vital Stats:

Name: Rebel Yell Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: NAS
Proof: 80 Proof (40% ABV)
Type: Kentucky straight wheated bourbon
Mashbill: 75% corn, 20% wheat, 5% malted barley
Producer: Stitzel-Weller Distillery
Glassware: Glencairn

Review

Nose: The nose opens with golden syrup poured over red fruit, faint herbaceous notes, milk chocolate, and a touch of white pepper. As you nose deeper a dusty butterscotch, apricot, and some deeper herbaceous tobacco notes also emerge.

Palate: The palate opens with red fruit and a touch of old butterscotch followed by milk chocolate, faint roasted nuts and spice, vanilla, and herbaceous oak.

Finish: The finish opens with butterscotch and more minty herbaceous notes which and lead into an aftertaste of wheat and minty oak.

Overall 

Drinking this it’s easy to taste why Stitzel-Weller stocks are so sought after! This was delicious and even at 80 proof delivered a flavourful and complex sipping experience. My bank account was really hoping that this would be an average bourbon not worth chasing but when compared to more modern wheated bourbons this is in a league of its own and again speaks to the expertise of those behind the Stitzel-Weller operation in the 80s and 90s.

Bid?

From a quick look at historic auctions, these typically go for between £200-£300. Although this price seems a bit high, it’s definitely indicative of the demand for these bottlings and an easy yes if you want to own a piece of genuine bourbon history that also tastes great.


My thanks to Whisky Auctioneer for making this review possible and to the wonderful Peggy Noe Stevens (president of Peggy Noe Stevens & Associates, founder of the Bourbon Women Association, and the first female master bourbon taster in the world!) for guiding me through tasting it. If you haven’t checked them out before, Whisky Auctioneer is the global market leader and trusted authority on the buying and selling of whisky and spirits at auction. The business currently sees over 100,000 bids per month and has conducted deliveries to 74 countries across the globe. It also opened its first European base in Germany last year.

Featured image is property of Whisky Auctioneer and used with permission.

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Like you, I’m a whiskey enthusiast. I don’t earn any money from distilleries, their parent companies, or their subsidiaries for my reviews. If you like what you’ve read and want to support this page then why not buy me a dram?

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Your contribution is appreciated and will ensure I can keep this website impartial, operational, and stocked full of new content. Cheers!

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