That brand has remained the flagship for the distillery, even after the somewhat quiet release of its first house-made whiskey way back in 2019. Recently, however, the talented duo released a pair of whiskeys under a new Nelson Brothers label. Both are high-rye bourbons that are designed to land at a more approachable price point than the more premium (and usually specialty cask-finished) Belle Meade.
Given these whiskeys’ suspicious “bottled by” labeling (instead of “distilled by” or “produced by”), my initial suspicion was that these were sourced products,
but the Nelsons corrected me by noting that, like the Nelson’s Green Brier release of yore, these are entirely made in-house (and presumable older). Color me surprised; they are both well-made, refined whiskeys that bear little resemblance to much of what you’ll find in the American craft whiskey industry.
Update 9/2022: The brand has since clarified that these are indeed sourced whiskeys — including stock from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana.
Let’s dig in to both.
Nelson Bros. Whiskey Classic Blend of Straight Bourbons – “A blend of exceptional high-rye straight bourbon whiskeys.” Pretty and engaging on the nose, this is a fresh but somewhat mild whiskey with notes of nutty banana bread, cookie dough, and a hint of fruity cherry. The wood influence lands mostly on lively vanilla notes; there’s no hoary lumberyard character here. The palate is clean and refreshing, warming but not hot, with notes of butterscotch, vanilla, cinnamon bread, and just a touch of peanut brittle. Clean with just a hint of heat on the finish. Surprisingly solid stuff either straight or with a mixer, particularly given the price. 93.3 proof. A / $37
Nelson Bros. Whiskey Reserve Bourbon – “The process begins with selecting the choicest lots of well-aged bourbon barrels in the Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery inventory.” After that it pretty much goes into the bottle, it seems. The higher proof gives this a more aggressive, woodier nose, with a stronger baking spice character, though wood dominates — more of the whiskey’s craft origins coming into focus. On the palate, again it’s big with wood but tempered with sunnier notes of brown butter, orange peel, and cinnamon-heavy spice. It’s altogether a bit ruddy and burly, but approachable, though never nearly as charming as the Classic bottling. Peanut shell and some pencil lead notes linger on a decidedly savory finish. Proof fiends will love the higher abv here, and the more intense experience that comes with it, but that comes at a bit of a price that robs it of some of its character. 107.8 proof. B+ / $59 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]