Last year, Luxco released a small collection of 10 year old Rebel Yell Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey to significant acclaim. At the time this was thought to be a one-off, but now a second expression of Rebel Yell 10 Year Old is arriving for 2017. As with the 2016, the 2017 edition of Rebel Yell 10 is a wheated bourbon bottled at 100 proof. As a single barrel bottling, the whiskey will vary from bottle to bottle.
For 2017, the whiskey offers a racy nose of gingerbread cookies, tobacco, and smoky campfire ashes. The palate is toasty and heavy with notes of anise, dark toast, cloves, and barrel char. Sweeter notes are elusive, driven to the sides by hot red pepper and plenty of wood-heavy barrel influence. The finish is drying but not dusty, showcasing a punchy spirit with quite a bit of character, though it’s one that leans a bit too heavily this time out on the more raw characteristics of the barrel for its power.
100 proof. Reviewed: Barrel $5043515. 2000 cases produced.
B+ / $100 / rebelyellbourbon.com
American Born is a new line of bourbon and flavored whiskey from Milestone Brands, an Austin-based company founded by the minds behind Deep Eddy Vodka. These new whiskeys are sourced spirits bottled at 83 proof, which “pays homage to the recognition of the country’s independence in 1783.” Hmmm.
Note that the spirits are all bottled in Nashville, but they are not considered (or labeled) Tennessee Whiskey.
Thoughts on the full lineup follow.
American Born Bourbon Whiskey – Made from a “corn and rye” mash, but otherwise details are scant, including where it is distilled, and how long it is aged. Clearly it’s not young. The whiskey has the hallmarks of youth on the nose, namely plenty of lumberyard character that gives it a considerable pungency. The palate finds that wood melding with buttery popcorn and taking on some smoky notes, alongside almond, clove, and a burnt rubber character that lingers on the finish. A simple bourbon that is all about youth, worn straight on its sleeve. 83 proof. B- / $20
American Born Peach Whiskey – Made with natural peach juice and natural flavors. This is a capable way to doctor the rough-and-tumble Bourbon, giving a good amount of sweetness to a whiskey that’s desperately in need of it. And at first blush, the peach is juicy, authentic, and sweet — but this degrades surprisingly quickly, devolving into a chemical note that comes across as acrid, shades of (the old) Southern Comfort. 70 proof. C / $19
American Born Apple Whiskey – Again, made with real apple juice and natural flavors. Sharp apple candy on the nose leads to an incredibly sweet and syrupy body, stuffed with apple and watermelon candy notes. The finish is unbearably saccharine, off-putting with harshly astringent overtones. D- / $19
It feels like it’s been a year since Buffalo Trace’s last entry into its ongoing Experimental Collection release, but finally something new has arrived. This one looks at the most basic component of whiskeydom: the underlying grain. This time, it’s going with a whopping six of them.
Some details from the buffalo’s mouth:
Distilled in early May 2010, this whiskey mash bill contains an assortment of grains; corn, buckwheat, brown rice, sorghum, wheat, and rice. These grains were milled, cooked and made into sour mash before being distilled on Buffalo Trace’s experimental micro-still to 130 proof white dog. The white dog was then entered into eight new charred white oak barrels that had received Buffalo Trace’s standard number four char. After resting in Warehouse H for seven years and one month, the whiskey was chill filtered and bottled at 90 proof.
This is a certified organic whiskey, as all six grains received organic certification, and the production method at Buffalo Trace Distillery, including distillation, processing, and bottling was organically certified.
The whiskey is a bit of a bruiser, loaded up with tannin and barrel influence that I wouldn’t expect from a seven year old whiskey. The nose is loaded with sawdust and pencil lead, dusky clove and tobacco leaf. The palate, well, it stays right on target: wood is the dominant note, with diminishing characteristics of burnt sugar, molasses, tar, and heavy barrel char. Some sweetness lingers here — a by-product perhaps of the sorghum — but for the most part it lacks the heavy vanilla and caramel notes of a typical bourbon. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is quite unexpected and off the beaten path.
This is a complex beast, and fans of very old bourbons are advised to track down a bottle to compare and contrast how this unorthodox mashbill, at a younger age, compares to a more traditional bourbon, at a much more advanced one. Please share your talking points in the comments.
B+ / $46 (375 ml) / buffalotrace.com
Great Wagon Road Distilling can be found in Charlotte, North Carolina, where this small operation can be found making vodka, poitin, and malt whiskey under the care of Ollie Mulligan, a native Irishman. Today we look at Rua — Gaelic for “red” — the company’s American single malt made from 100% malted barley. The whiskey carries no age statement, but it’s a fairly young one that is apparently aged in considerably smaller barrels.
The nose of Rua has all the hallmarks of a youthful American single malt, scorched by the impact of plenty of new oak, but it shows that some liveliness lies beneath, in the form of cinnamon, apple cider, and some ginger aromas.
On the palate, again the new wood tends to dominate, but some secondary notes of tobacco, cloves, baking spice, and a lacing of sweeter vanilla elevate the experience above that of most American single malts. The light butterscotch notes on the finish are playful in a whiskey that can initially come across as brooding — at least enough to merit giving it a cautious recommendation.
Reviewed: Release 10, Batch 18. 80 proof.
B / $53 / gwrdistilling.com
This latest release from Pennsylvania’s Dad’s Hat may look familiar, since there’s already a Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey on the market, which we reviewed way back in 2013. Pay careful attention, though: This is not Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey, this is Dad’s Hat Straight Rye Whiskey. Not only is it able to use the “straight” moniker since it is older (3 years instead of about 6 months), it is also a bit higher in proof.
It’s also a considerably different whiskey.
Even more than prior Dad’s Hat releases, the nose of this whiskey is intense with both fresh and charred wood — though it takes on some notes of evergreen and mint, with overtones of fresh cut hay. The palate, and you can feel it coming, is a wood bomb that goes off in your mouth and from which you are unlikely to recover. What does manage to make it out of that overload of tannic wood are some notes of motor oil, smoldering matches, cloves, and bitter tree bark. Well, yes, a lot of that is a play on wood, so come prepared for plenty of it. Looking for sweetness? Ah, bless your heart. You’ve come to the wrong place altogether.
C+ / $38 / dadshatrye.com
Jumping on the rye bandwagon, Luxco’s Ezra Brooks has expanded to offer a rye — 95% rye, 5% barley, sourced from Indiana’s MGP and bottled at just two years old — er, “24 months” according to the back label. It’s bottled just a tad overproof at 45% abv.
The nose doesn’t give too many hints about the whiskey on the whole. Dialed back and stripped down a bit, it shows the expected aromas of baking spice, but also some oddball notes, including licorice candy, overly heavy barrel char, and some sweetish campfire smoke. It’s interesting enough aromatically, though quite demure.
The palate immediately shifts gears and quickly belies the youth of the underlying whiskey, offering notes of green wood, raw alcohol, and simple cereals that claw at the tongue. There’s a bit of caramel and vanilla here, but it’s undercooked and overwhelmed by those raw notes, coming across as simply having been bottled much too soon.
This rye doesn’t represent what Luxco can do — and in reality, it’s not much more than a way to make a quick buck by capitalizing on the current rush to rye whiskey. Better rye is out there for not much more money.
C- / $20 / ezrabrooks.com
Diageo’s Rhetoric brand, part of the Orphan Barrel Project, is now on its fourth of six total expressions. The 20 year old arrived in 2014, followed by annual updates in the form of the 21 year old and 22 year old versions. Today we look at #4, Rhetoric 23 Years Old.
As a refresher, as the story goes, Rhetoric stocks were found in the old Stitzel-Weller warehouses in Louisville. It was distilled between 1990 and 1993 at the Bernheim Distillery while owned and operated by United Distillers., from a mash of 86% corn, 8% barley and 6% rye. Bottling is done in Tennessee.
All told, the 23 is showing similar characteristics to the 22 year old, perhaps with a slightly more woody edge to it. That aside, on the nose it still carries ample fruit — oranges, cherries, and a solid slug of chocolate. The palate carries a heavy wood and barrel char profile, but it’s tempered with butterscotch, bergamot, and some tropical notes, particularly coconut. The finish is quite tannic, almost bitter at time and showing lots of grip, slightly smoky and with hints of black pepper.
All told, Rhetoric is still holding its own, though at this point the wood is beginning to dominate the other elements. We’ll see how the next two expressions fare on that regard.
A- / $120 / diageo.com