We have previously compared the 2016 release of Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Year to other bottles, such as Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond and even Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year. Now that we’ve received another release of Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Year, it’s time to see whether the magic of the first release can be duplicated.
Released by Luxco, Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Year is sourced from the Heaven Hill distillery. Specifically, Luxco has entered into an arrangement with Heaven Hill to contract distill this product at Heaven Hill’s Bernheim distillery in Louisville. Rebel Yell has other products, Small Batch Reserve, Small Batch Rye (likely sourced from Beam) and American Whiskey (a blend of bourbon and rye). Rebel Yell’s original product, a wheated bourbon, originated at the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery, now infamous for originally producing the Weller and Van Winkle lines.
But this history should not be taken as more than an interesting anecdote when sampling present-day Rebel Yell. While Rebel Yell has stayed true to its wheated bourbon roots with its Single Barrel 10 year product, it is not confirmed whether it is the same particular mash bill as what was used at Stitzel-Weller. Nor, obviously, is it aged at the same location under the same conditions.
Can we safely deduce that the Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Year’s mash bill is the same as Heaven Hill’s wheated mash (68% corn, 20% wheat, 12% malted barley) for Heaven Hill’s own products? Yes. Can we, therefore, consider Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 year to be essentially an older version of Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond and Larceny? Yes. But the comparisons should not foray into anything “Weller” or “Pappy.”
With that said, when Rebel Yell first announced its Single Barrel 10 year in 2016, it was met with a lot of eye-rolling. Rebel Yell’s products since being purchased by Luxco, to that point, were bottom-shelf dwellers. Releasing a product at nearly triple the price? The market was skeptical, to say the least.
Then they tried it.
The long and the short of it is that the 2016 Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 year is delicious. Not terribly complex or unique, but delicious nonetheless.
So, when the 2017 release rolled in, we naturally wondered whether Rebel Yell could recreate the magic. We sampled a freshly opened 2016 release and 2017 release side-by-side to answer this question.
2016 Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Year (100 proof, barrel #4744180)
Nose: Plums, charred oak, sweet dark chocolate, wood varnish, blueberries, purple grape skin, blackberry juice, vanilla extract. (4/5)
Palate: Charred oak and dark chocolate (the kind that’s like 80% cocoa), plums, dates, vanilla. (4/5)
Finish: Medium in length, some light caramel and charred oak, grape juice. (3/5)
Overall: The nose is so inviting and pleasant. It is the perfect welcome mat for this bourbon, which hits on a variety of simple, but very pleasing, notes. The finish’s length leaves something to be desired, but does well in smoothly transitioning the highlights from the palate. (4/5)
Value: In today’s market, a 10-year single barrel wheated bourbon is going to fetch a premium price. At $59.99, this is certainly more than satisfying. (4/5)
2017 Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Year (100 proof, barrel #5083205)
Nose: Dial up the wood varnish, and dial down the plums and charred oak. Still very fruity, but also with a mineral scent, or like limestone. It just smells younger as a result. (2.5/5)
Palate: The plums and charred oak come roaring back. The palate on these two bottles could easily mistaken, unlike the nose. Less oak-driven than the 2005, but also adds some brown sugar and a touch of citrus. (3.5/5)
Finish: Medium, very similar to the 2005. Again, the oak is not as prominent, and some of the brighter notes come through possibly as a result. (3/5)
Overall: The noticeable difference with the 2017 release is the nose. It makes for a pleasantly surprising palate, but is not nearly as inviting as 2016. While there are slight nuances between the 2016 and 2017 palate and finish, they are much more consistent than they are distinct. In the end, the 2016 wins, but just by a nose. (3.5/5)
Value: We’ve seen this priced about $10 higher than the 2016 release in other markets. We were fortunate to acquire this locally at $59.99. But, even at $69.99, it would still be satisfying. (3/5)
Stephen is a regular writer at FlightClubICT.com