Posts tagged ‘wheated bourbon’

Rebel Reserve Bourbon Review

Rebel ReserveToday, I am doing a bourbon review that I have wanted to do for a long time.  I remembered it with mixed feelings from my college years, and I finally got around to giving it a whirl again and organizing my thoughts on Rebel Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.  Rebel Reserve is the big sibling to Rebel Yell, and it is (like Rebel Yell) distilled at Heaven Hill for the Luxco brand.  Also like Rebel Yell, Rebel Reserve is a true wheated mash bill, filling in wheat instead of rye in the grain recipe.  There is no age statement on Rebel Reserve, but I suspect it is about 6 years old, about 2 years older than Rebel Yell.  Rebel Reserve is also bottled at 90.6 proof (45.3% abv), compared to Rebel Yell’s 80 proof.

On the nose, Rebel Reserve is very reminiscent of a younger wheated bourbon.  There are notes of dense caramel, black cherries, and brown sugar.  However, the nose also has that off-putting cherry aroma that can be a part of Evan Williams’ products from time to time.  The palate is very one-tricked with a lot of caramel and sweet corn syrup coming through, with very little complexity.  As the whiskey goes into the medium-long, very sweet finish, those weird cherry notes come up again for me, but more sour this time, as if those cherries have gone rotten.

On the whole, I am not a big fan of Rebel Reserve.  If you read the blog a lot, you probably know that wheated bourbons tend not to be favorite bourbons unless they have a lot of age under their belt.  Rebel Reserve reminds me a lot of Larceny and Maker’s Mark, two other wheated bourbons that I have reviewed and found lacking as well.  That said, if Larceny and Maker’s Mark are bourbons that you enjoy, I think you will really enjoy Rebel Reserve, and it definitely sits at a price point that makes the buy a worthwhile experimental purchase.  Were it my money, I would go for Old Weller Antique for a wheated bourbon under $25.  Since it’s your money, don’t be afraid to give Rebel Reserve a try, especially if you enjoy other young wheated bourbons.  My grade: C-.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  At the price point, Rebel Reserve is a fine deal, and it won’t break the bank if you decide that you don’t care for it.

Most importantly, drink your bourbon responsibly, and let it ride!

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Rebel Yell Bourbon Review

Today I am reviewing Rebel Yell Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, one of the original wheated bourbons.  When most people think of an easy-drinking (smooth) bourbon, Rebel Yell comes to mind.  Like many wheated bourbons, Rebel Yell can trace its roots to the old Stitzel-Weller distillery.  Nowadays, Rebel Yell is distilled and aged at Heaven Hill’s Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky (even though the bottle claims it is distilled and aged by the fictitious “Rebel Yell Distillery”).  The whiskey is then bottled by Luxco, a beverage supplier that provides Ezra Brooks and Rebel Reserve.  Rebel Yell is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv) with no age statement.

In the glass, Rebel Yell is a beautiful pale gold color.  The nose is very light and sweet, offering baked apples, honey, and vanilla.  The palate is light, with ripe gala apples, honey, some caramel, and vanilla.  The sweetness is delicious.  The finish is rather short, with only some apples and honey hanging on.

Overall, Rebel Yell is a peculiar whiskey for me.  It is not complex at all, but it is downright delicious.  I love the way it tastes and smells, but it does not last for that long, and there is not much complexity to it.  It is sweet all the way through, so if you like that flavor profile, you might enjoy Rebel Yell.  Honestly, there are times when I am drinking Rebel Yell that I think I am drinking an Irish whiskey; it borders on that type of light, ripe fruitiness.  As such, this might be an easy bourbon to get a non-whiskey drinker interested in whiskey.  My grade: C.  Price: $15-20/750ml.  At the price point, I think Rebel Yell is hard to beat for an everyday pour, but it is far from the best that the world of wheated bourbons has to offer.

Maker’s 46 Bourbon Review

Maker's 46Today, I am reviewing (and currently enjoying) a glass of Maker’s 46.  As many of you who know me and read the blog know, I am not a Maker’s Mark fan.  Honestly, I really don’t like that stuff.  However, I had been told by some of my bourbon friends and other bourbon blogs that I should get my hands on some Maker’s 46.  I’m glad I listened.

Maker’s 46 is the standard Maker’s Mark recipe aged 6 years just like Maker’s Mark.  Then, the 46 is finished in specially-made barrels that have seared French Oak staves running down the middle of the barrel.  The name “46” comes from the number of the searing recipe that eventually went into new barrels.  After a few weeks/months finishing in the special barrels, Maker’s 46 is ready to go (bottled at 94 proof).  Its a cool process, but the proof is in the pudding.

Maker’s 46 has a rich, dark amber color, and it smells wonderful.  To me, the nose smells like freshly baked banana bread (oh yeah).  There are also notes of cinnamon sugar, vanilla frosting, and drying oak.  The palate follows nicely.  It is sweet up front, big vanilla and caramel.  There is also some hot cinnamon and some bitter tannins.  The finish is long and warming.  The banana bread comes back along with some berries and vanilla frosting.  There is a slight tannic influence that I hope doesn’t take over the whiskey as I go through the bottle, but the tannic zip is not enough to ruin this one.

Overall, this is a monstrous step up from Maker’s Mark.  The palate is more complex and much tastier, and the finish is long, warming, and delicious.  Of course, it is a few dollars more than Maker’s Mark, but I would still reach for this one every time.  My Grade: B+.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  This is a great wheated bourbon, and definitely one of my favorites at the price point.  Pick up a bottle and let it ride!

Holiday Whiskey Comparison Review: Part 1 – 18 yr. American Whiskey

Well, it is getting to that time of year when us Americans over-celebrate holidays, which often involves drinking.  There are many folks who think that holiday drinking ought to entail drinking rare or expensive whiskey.  Of course, rare and expensive whiskeys are fun and often delicious, but holiday drinking is about enjoying your favorite dram.  So, enjoy a whiskey you might like this holiday, and avoid paying too much.

With that in mind, though, here are a few tips on buying hard to find and expensive whiskeys.  My primary piece of advice is probably the most important, do your research.  There are whiskey blogs all over the internet, and reviews of whiskeys are not hard to find.  When I am looking into buying an expensive bottle, it is usually because I have a specific flavor profile that I am looking for.  To that end, I read whiskey blogs and discuss my possible purchase with friends who have had previous bottlings or expressions of the whiskey.  If I am going to buy a whiskey for $80, then I want to have a good idea of what I am going to get.

My second piece of advice is that just because a whiskey is old, hard to find, and expensive, does not mean that it is a great whiskey.  I have said this over and over again because it is true.  Every whiskey has an ideal age that depends on the type of cask used, the temperature of the storage, the nature of the new make, your palate, etc.  The trick is to find the age you like a whiskey at the best, and balance that out with how much you are willing to spend on a bottle of whiskey.

Without any further gab, I’ll get to my comparison review.  Today, I am reviewing two 18 year-old American whiskeys, Sazerac 18 yr. and Jefferson’s 18 yr. Presidential Select.  Sazerac 18 yr. is a straight rye whiskey that is bottled by Buffalo Trace in limited quantities every fall as part of the Antique Collection.  Jefferson’s 18 yr. Presidential Select is a wheated bourbon from the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery (famously the makers of the coveted Van Winkle line).  Both these whiskeys are expensive, hard to find, and aged at least 18 years.

I am reviewing the Fall 2012 bottling of the Sazerac 18 yr., as it is the first and only bottling that I have tried.  It is a straight rye whiskey that is also bottled and sold in a 6 yr. edition.  Rye whiskeys have enough flavor to be very good at a young age, but I had always heard that the Sazerac line was at its best in the 18 year old.  It is bottled at 90 proof.

On the nose, the whiskey has a backbone of cinnamon and honey, but it is rounded out beautifully by oak, brown sugar, toffee, ginger, roses, and vanilla.  This whiskey is alive in the glass.  The scents come flooding deep into the nostrils; it is a wonderful, warming aroma.  On the palate, the whiskey opens up with fresh fruits and spiced sweetness.  There are notes of plums, cinnamon, oak, peaches, apples, and rye.  The finish is medium long, with notes of vanilla, rye, cinnamon, and oak.  My only minor complaint is that the finish can be a little tannin-ish sometimes, but that is a minor complaint.

Overall, this is a brilliant rye whiskey.  It balances the rye spices and the oak sweetness perfectly.  It is a joy to drink, and it is a hard whiskey to beat.  My grade: A.  Price: $70-80/750ml.  The price tag is a little steep, but it is worth a try if you can find it.  This whiskey is almost an A+.

Jefferson’s 18 year-old Presidential Select is a wheated bourbon from the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery.  As I have documented before, I am not a big fan of wheated bourbons, but they tend to be whiskeys that age very well.  Jefferson’s certainly proves that.  It is a small-batch bourbon bottled at 94 proof (I am reviewing Batch 14).

On the nose, Jefferson’s Presidential Select has many typical bourbon notes.  The oak is clearly present, but it is dense and flavorful, not too overpowering.  There are notes of toffee, corn sweetness, and melted caramel.  The palate is light-medium bodied, with notes of caramel, vanilla frosting, and silky oak.  It is an extremely drinkable bourbon (be careful).  The finish is of medium length, but it tastes delicious, with the rich oak melding with the toffee, caramel, and vanilla.

Overall, this whiskey drinks well under its proof point, and it is much better than other wheated bourbons I have reviewed on the site.  However, it still falls short of greatness in my opinion.  It is too light-bodied for my tastes, but that does not mean that it isn’t the rare bourbon for you.  My grade: B+.  Price: $90-100/750ml.  This is a damn good bourbon, but it is hard to justify the money for me.  It is a little too mellow for my taste.

My point in all this is to say that not all 18 year old whiskeys are the same.  Read up on some old whiskeys you might like to try, and let it ride!  Stay tuned for Part 2 where I compare an 18 year-old Islay Scotch and an 18 year-old Speyside.

John E. Fitzgerald Larceny Bourbon Review

Today, I am reviewing John E. Fitzgerald Larceny bourbon.  This is a relatively new product from Heaven Hill Distillery, makers of Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, and Rittenhouse Rye, all fine whiskeys at good prices.  As it is, Larceny has high standards set for it.  It has to live up to Heaven Hill’s tradition of great value, but it also has to live up to its namesake, John E. Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald was a bourbon maker in the late 19th century, who eventually sold his distillery to Julian Van Winkle to become a treasury agent.  After the sale, Fitzgerald became famous/infamous for sneaking into the Van Winkle distillery to obtain whiskey from his favorite barrels.  Over time, these became known as the “Old Fitzgerald” barrels.  In honor of Fitzgerald’s discerning tastes, Heaven Hill created the Old Fitzgerald line of wheated bourbons.  Larceny is the newest addition to this line, a six-year old bourbon bottled at 92 proof.

Before giving my review, I will openly admit that I am not a huge fan of wheated bourbons.  Maker’s Mark, Weller, and the Old Fitzgerald line tend not to suit my palate as nicely as other bourbons.  That is not to say that I hate all wheated bourbons.  William Larue Weller and W.L. Weller 12 yr. are both very enjoyable (especially the former).  I just want to acknowledge my bias coming into the review.

On the nose, Larceny is dense and rich.  There are notes of caramel, butterscotch, corn, vanilla, and brown sugar.  I think the palate brings the whiskey down, though.  There is a dense caramel sweetness, balanced by hearty cereal grain flavors.  The back of the palate picks up cinnamon and drying oak spices.  The finish is medium to short, with the oak remaining along with some dense caramel.

Overall, this is a solid wheated bourbon.  It is not especially expensive (usually around $25/750 ml), which makes it a very good value if you enjoy wheated bourbon.  In most stores, this is cheaper than Maker’s Mark, which makes Larceny the better buy.  However, I don’t see too much between them in flavor profiles.  Larceny is not the bourbon for me, but that does not mean it isn’t the bourbon for you.  My Grade: C-.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  For me, I leave this one on the shelf.  There are better whiskeys at the price point, and I don’t think this would make a great mixer.

W.L. Weller 12 Year Review

Today, I am reviewing W.L. Weller 12 year-old, the self-proclaimed, “Original Wheated Bourbon.” It is made at the W.L. Weller and Sons Distillery, and bottled by Buffalo Trace.  I have already reviewed Maker’s Mark on the site, which is also a wheated bourbon.  This means that these whiskies are made from a mash bill that is comprised of only corn (at least 51%) and wheat.  As you may recall, I am not a big fan of Maker’s Mark.  I think it is overpriced, especially for what you get.  However, Maker’s Mark is only aged 6 years, a rather short time, especially for wheated bourbons.  One thing you commonly hear in the bourbon world is that wheated bourbons take oak well, meaning they dramatically improve with age in the oak.

W.L. Weller is a bourbon label bottled at many different temperatures, ages, and proof points.  The most famous in the bourbon world is William Larue Weller, part of Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection (I have tried the 2010 bottling, and it is quite delicious).  However, William Larue Weller is a bit beyond my price range.  At about $28-$30 per bottle, W.L. Weller 12 year-old is a very nice price range, especially for a quality whiskey.

The first thing you might notice about W.L. Weller 12 year is the color.  It is a dark, rich amber, which makes sense considering the time it spends in the American oak.  On the nose, it is very sweet (a trademark of wheated bourbons).  There are rich scents of maple sugar, brown sugar, caramel, and butterscotch.  There is also some nuttiness and some cinnamon spice that creeps through.  On the palate, the sweetness continues.  The first thing that jumps out is the caramel, which dominates the front of the palate.  However, soft notes of butterscotch and vanilla begin to arise over time.  As the whiskey moves to its conclusion, the oak begins to take hold, giving the whiskey notes of sweet oak and charred almonds.  The finish is long and very warming.  It starts out very sweet, as if somebody soaked a brown sugar cube in caramel and dropped in the back of my mouth.  However, as time passes, the oak begins to show more, leaving a sweet, charred feeling that lasts a while.

On the whole, this is a very impressive whiskey.  A bottle was given to me as a birthday gift, but I would definitely buy it again.  It seems like it would be a wonderful whiskey for the fall, so I plan to make it last until the leaves are turning to their gold and auburn hues.  It definitely shows that not all wheated bourbons have to achieve the dross flavor profile that Maker’s Mark does.  My grade: B-. Price: $25-30/750ml.  If you like wheaters, this one should be in your cabinet; its a great day-to-day pour.