Rebel is one of the four brands of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskeys coming from Lux Row Distillers in Bardstown, Kentucky. You can trace back the history of Lux Row back to 1843 when David Nicholson, a St. Louis grocer, began making and selling whiskey in his general store. The Rebel Yell recipe was invented in 1849, but the Rebel Yell brand itself (though since then the Yell has been dropped) was created only almost a century later, in 1936, by Stitzel-Weller Distilling Co. to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Weller company. While this article is part of a Lux Row Distillers Flash Blog event for the launch of their third release in the Kentucky based brands limited edition cask finish series, we won’t just taste and review it, but also put it against their Rebel 100 bourbon.
Rebel Special Finish Series
As I said, the Rebel Bourbon Tawny Port Finish is the third instalment in their Special Finish Series. Each year since 2019, this Special Finish Series sees their four year old Rebel Kentucky Straight Bourbon finished for six months in a different cask. The series started with a French Oak Finish, whilst last year’s second release was finished in Cognac casks. And as you’ve guessed, the third instalment, for 2021, is using a Tawny Port cask finish to bring something new to their bourbon.
Rebel 100 review
Rebel 100 is the ramped-up version of the classic Rebel (or Rebel Yell, as the brand appears under both names). It was introduced in 2019 in conjunction with a rebranding of the entire Rebel Yell range. The mashbill is undisclosed, this bourbon features 20% wheat, with a majority of corn and some malted barley to complete the mashbill. From what I’ve read, it seems to be sourced from Heaven Hill with a 68/20/12% ratio between corn, wheat and malted barley respectively. Obviously, as a straight bourbon, it is matured in new American white oak casks, but here for four years instead of the minimum legal requirement of two years. Bottled at 100 US proof, as the name suggests, or 50% ABV, it is naturally coloured (colouring in forbidden for bourbon). It doesn’t seem to be available anymore in the UK nor in France, but the Whiskybase shop seems to have it for 35€ a bottle.
Tawny. Yes I know, the tawny finished one is the one below.
No doubt we’re nosing a bourbon here. We immediately get the sweetness of corn spirit, lots of caramel, scents of oak, hints of coco, brown sugar and cherry liqueur. Dilution brings a bit more spices and additional dark fruits, mostly plum.
While the ABV wasn’t noticeable on the nose, you get the bite of alcohol at the first sip. Syrupy brown sugar, almost cough syrup, vanilla and butterscotch provide sweet notes while the wood is quite present too with its spices, clove and cinnamon, and barrel char. With water, the texture get creamier for a moment before getting thinner after a few seconds, and brings vanilla forward.
Charred oak and cherries linger for a while, leaving a bit of heat in the throat.
While I’m not much a Bourbon drinker, I must admit I’m quite pleased with this Rebel 100. Not drinking bourbon often I must admit I cannot detect the maybe higher than usual proportion of wheat in the mash bill. But this bourbon is honestly quite tasty, with a nice nose. You wouldn’t spend hours nosing it before meticulously picking flavours out of the palate, but this is not the target of this bourbon. We have here a bourbon with a higher ABV than the norm, made to be enjoyed without geekery. The main words are “made to be enjoyed” in the previous sentence, and that’s what is important. Now at its US RRP (between $17 and $25 depending on where in the US you live), that would be seriously good value. At 35€ or worse, £35 in the UK… there are quite a lot of very good competitors at that price, though I think the duty on bourbon is still quite high between the USA and the UK, and it was just suspended today in the EU, so we may expect a better price soon in Europe.
Rebel Bourbon Tawny Port Finish Review
As I said earlier, this is the third instalment in the Cask Finish series, with a 6-month Tawny Port casks Finish. This is bottled at 45% abv, so a bit less than the Rebel 100 reviewed above. It is obviously here again with its natural colour. It should be available internationally in the coming days, at a RRP price of £39 or €46.
The nose here is “darker” than the Rebel 100’s. By darker I mean brown sugar, dark red fruits, dark cherry mostly, and there are some winey scents. But under the notes brought by the tawny port finish, you definitely distinguish the Rebel 100 nose. A few drops of water make the noise a bit prickly but I couldn’t get much mode, no thanks to the cold my kids gave me (I really ought to make autumn and winter a no-kiss-to-the-kids season).
Sweeter arrival than the Rebel 100, but after a few seconds some chilli pepper and a slight bitterness arrive. The mouthfeel is thinner than Rebel 100, the lower ABV is quite noticeable. Wood spices and char are still quite present, trying to counterweight the heavy sweetness brought by the port finish, revealed by red fruits dusted with brown sugar, vanilla, toffee and butterscotch. Dilution thins out the palate without toning down the sweetness, but adds maybe a feint additional bitterness.
Oak spices and cherries fade away after a few seconds, but the afterthought of these flavours lingers on the tongue.
Unfortunately, a corn-based spirit is already sweet by nature, and the tawny port finish here brings an additional layer of sweetness. While you can still discern the Rebel signature under, it’s quite covered by a thick layer of sweetness on the nose and on the palate. If you have a sweet tooth you’ll enjoy this, but it’s unfortunately a bit too much for me. While the price is just £4 more than the Rebel 100, with the additional finish, the same remarks about the price do apply anyway.
By the way…
Samples were provided for free by Chapman Poole. As usual this had no impact on my thoughts and my review.
All photos courtesy of Lux Row Distillers.
But don’t take our word for it…
As you know, every palate is different. Tasting notes and reviews are always more or less subjective. So, reading other reviews might help you figure those bourbons out. Some friends of mine also reviewed these bourbons, so go read what they thought about them. You can go check Brian @MaltMusing‘s thoughts about the Rebel 100 here and the Tawny Port Finish there, or Matt @thedramble for the Rebel 100 here, or also Sorren @ocdwhisky‘s thoughts here about Rebel 100 too.