Reviews

Rebel Yell Single Barrel (2017) Bourbon Review

Photo courtesy of Luxco.


The second release of Rebel Yell Single Barrel is already on shelves.  It launched in 2016 and quickly became one of my favorite bourbons released that year.  A 10-year-old, 100 proof wheated bourbon for about $60- seriously, what’s not to like?

As I just mentioned, Rebel Yell Single Barrel is a wheated bourbon.  That means the producers use wheat as the secondary grain instead of the more traditional rye.  Speaking of producers… though Luxco is currently building a distillery in Bardstown, they are still sourcing their whiskey from other producers.  In the case of most of Luxco’s whiskies, that source would most likely be Heaven Hill.

My review sample is from barrel 504315, which was filled in May 2006.  I said it before and I’ll say it again: kudos to parent company Luxco for adding this information to the label.

I’m happy to report the quality of last year’s release remains.  Big aromas of grilled sweet corn, caramelized sugar and vanilla fill the glass.  Slight hints of cinnamon and fresh brioche follow.  On the palate, classic bourbon notes are showcased – vanilla cream, cornbread, and cinnamon. A touch of leather and oak tannins lightly coat the tongue in the back palate.  The finish is long and somewhat sweet, with notes of spiced corn and caramel.

I enjoy bourbons of many walks of life.  Lately I’ve come to consider 8 to 12 years to be my sweet spot in terms of a bourbon’s age.  Heaven Hill’s 10-year-old Parker’s Heritage Collection from a couple of years back is pretty much a flawless bourbon for my tastes.  Barrel Bourbon Batch 005 was aged for eight years and still lingers in my memory.  Rebel Yell Single Barrel, though a different mash bill, hits on all cylinders.  It is extremely well-balanced and delivers a wonderful display of flavors.  8.5/10

Rebelyellbourbon.com

Thanks to Luxco for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

A Word With Freddie Noe and a Little Book Preview

Image courtesy of Beam Suntory.


For the most part, I’ve quite enjoyed the whiskies that came from the hands of the late Booker Noe and his son Fred Noe – the current Jim Beam Master Distiller.  So it is with great anticipation that I get to preview THE debut whiskey from the eighth generation Beam, Freddie Noe.

Little Book, both the name of the whiskey and Freddie’s nickname, is scheduled to hit shelves this October.  This first batch, “The Easy,” is a blend of 13-year-old corn whiskey, 5-year-old rye whiskey, 5-year-old malt whiskey, and 4-year-old bourbon.  The ages of the component whiskies come courtesy of an informative article from writer Chuck Cowdery.  I’m being told by the company that the component malt and rye whiskies, once batched and bottled in the fall, will be “about 6 years-old each.”

So no, it’s not a bourbon.

Think of it as deconstructed bourbon.  The major grains of the component whiskies (corn, rye, and malted barley) are ones found in the traditional bourbon mash bill.  Cowdery also states in the aforementioned article that though Little Book is a blended whiskey, it contains no grain neutral spirit or flavoring.

Noe’s plan is to release a different blend each year.  He gets to experiment and has no shortage of barrels to play with.  In the tradition of his late grandfather’s namesake Booker’s, Little Book is uncut and bottled at barrel strength.  This sample I have is 120.48 proof.  As the whiskies are still in barrels and not yet batched together, the proof may slightly change.

Recently, Freddie Noe was kind enough to answer a few questions I threw his way.

BC: Freddie, let’s start with the name ‘Little Book.’ Tell us the story.

FN:  Little Book was my childhood nickname given to me by my family. It’s a nod to my granddaddy Booker Noe because people always thought we were just alike. I figured it was the perfect name to give my first release and pay tribute to my family.

BC:  How has your grandfather and father influenced your first whiskey release?

FN:  My Dad and my granddaddy are two of my biggest inspirations. I’ve always admired them for their character, and of course, their leadership in the bourbon industry. When I started working down at the distillery, I realized that my granddaddy and I had even more in common than I originally thought. Granddaddy was known for his spirit of experimentation, and when I started tinkering with whiskey myself, it awakened a real passion. For me, I love blending and the limitless taste profiles that can be created, and I knew that would be the foundation for my first release.

When I set down the road to bring Little Book to life, I tried to take into account all the lessons I’ve learned from my family over the years and during my time working with my dad at the distillery. Dad was one of the few who tasted Little Book before it was finished, and it’s being bottled uncut and unfiltered which I know is how granddaddy liked it too. Releasing Little Book is a big honor and responsibility, and I hope I’ve made the family proud.

BC:  This is the first high profile blended whiskey released by a major producer in a long time. Why blends of different types of whiskies instead of just a bourbon or rye release?

FN:  I’ve had just about every job at the distillery, but it was when I was working in our Global Innovation Center that I realized that I have a curious palate and a real fascination with blending. It’s like an open canvas. When you find just the right mix of liquids and blend them in the right amounts, you can create something that no one has tasted before.

When I was creating the liquid for Little Book “The Easy,” I wanted to pay tribute to what us Beams are known for – bourbon, and the core grains that make up a traditional bourbon mashbill. I blended corn, rye and malt whiskies together with Kentucky straight bourbon in varying proportions until I got the blend just right. The liquid streams in Little Book “The Easy” have been blended to create a taste profile that’s unique and one-of-a-kind.

BC:  Did you have an idea in mind of what you wanted when you set out to start this project, or did it evolve in the process?

FN:  I’ve been thinking about this product for a while now – it’s actually been years in the making, so when I got approval to create it, I was ready to get to work. It was a labor of love. I actually decided on the recipe for this blend on the second try, but it took me making more than 25 blends over the course of the last year until I decided the final liquid was just right.

Of course, Little Book will continue to evolve with a new blend being released each year. I’m excited to keep exploring all the possibilities with blending spirits and share some really unique liquids with whiskey fans in the coming years.

BC:  What do you think your grandfather would say after tasting this whiskey if he were still with us?

FN:  Well that’s the thing with my granddaddy – he’d tell you exactly what he thought, whether he liked it or not! But I like to think he’d be really proud and tell me “you done good!” To him, whiskey was meant to be drank however you liked it best, and in making Little Book uncut and unfiltered, you can do just that – you can drink it neat, with ice or even a little water. I like to think he’d add a couple drops of water to Little Book “The Easy” and enjoy it out on his porch swing.


As for the whiskey itself, the corn whiskey dominates.  Rich buttered kettle corn is the first aroma out of the glass, with a sprinkling of baking spices (most notably cinnamon stick) and a splash of maple syrup & butterscotch following closely.  The nose is a tad closed off, something remedied with a splash of water.  The whiskey is chewy (like great batches of Booker’s) with initial hints of butterscotch hard candy and sweet buttered cornbread, along with cinnamon, cloves, and some rye grain and nuttiness.  A bit of oak tannin appears on the backend into a long finish, with a hint of charred caramel corn.

It’s an interesting flavor profile, both reminiscent of classic bourbon and a complex corn whiskey.  I like what’s going on in the glass.  Little Book stands out as something a little different than a standard Beam bourbon.  Kudos to Freddie Noe for putting together a solid first release.  Fred, Freddie’s dad, should be proud.  8/10

Note: Updated on 8/11/17 to clarify the age of the component whiskies and proof of the final batch.

Partnering with Drizly.com and What I’ve Been Sipping Lately

A few weeks ago Drizly.com approached me about joining their Top Shelf Bloggers program.  Drizly is one of the more successful online spirits delivery stores out there, so I’m honored to have been asked.  This blog is all about spreading the whiskey word, so this new partnership might prove to be a great platform for that. 

They asked me to kick off my new relationship with Drizzly with a post about my favorite whiskey.  After all, I am a whiskey blogger, so I should have a favorite whiskey.  It’s a question I get asked very often by whiskey newbies or those looking to try something new.  Let’s clear the air – I don’t have a favorite whiskey.  Not one. “But Bobby, you’re a whiskey blogger.  Surely you have a favorite?”

No, and don’t call me Shirley. 

The whiskey I imbibe depends on my mood.  Sometimes I want a rich, sherried single malt or a smoky, peated one.  Other times I’ll reach for a good ole’ American bourbon or rye.  Again, it depends on what mood I’m in.

If I started listing every whiskey I loved, we’d be here a while.  Instead, you’ll find a list of whiskies (and cognacs) I’ve been reaching for at home recently.  I’ve avoided adding limited release whiskies or really expensive ones, so all of these should be easy to find.  In no particular order:

Let’s start with some bourbon. I like Elijah Craig Small Batch bourbon.  This 8 to 12-year-old whiskey is full of classic “bourbony” notes we all love, such as caramel, vanilla, oak and spice. The cask strength Booker’s bourbon is an option for those looking for a more robust drinking experience.

Want something a little smokier?  Try Lagavulin 16-year-old.  It’s a beautifully balanced whisky with an elegant, balanced flavor.  If you want something with more of an edge, reach for Laphroaig 10-year-old.  The peat in the latter option is ramped up, providing a more in-your-face whisky.

Maybe smoky whisky isn’t your thing, and that’s perfectly fine.  It’s a “love it or hate it” kind of thing.  Glenmorangie 10-year-old is a lighter style whisky filled with honey and floral notes.  I like this one over ice.  Speaking of which, there is no right way to drink whiskey as long as you enjoy it. Neat, with a splash of water, or on the rocks, there is no wrong way.

If you are in the market for something completely different, try cognac.  Like whisk(e)y, cognac is a distilled, barrel-aged spirit.  Because cognac is distilled from wine, it is much frutier than whiskey.  I’ve been sipping a lot of Hennessy XO and Courvoisier XO as of late.  Hennessy is bolder in character, while Courvoisier tends to be a bit lighter and more floral.  Both are pricier than the previously mentioned whiskies, so that may be a deciding factor as to whether you’re able or willing to pick up a bottle.  You can go Hennessy VSOP if you’re on a budget.  Lastly, Copper & Kings in Louisville make a 100 poof American brandy that’s as bold and flavorful as any bourbon you’ve come across.  

You can purchase all of these spirits at Drizly.com and have them delivered straight to your door.