Rebel Yell Small Batch Reserve

I am going to start off this article by making you all a promise.  I will not make any obvious Billy Idol references.  I make no promises about history references, either way.  With that out of the way, let me begin.

As my frequent readers have led me to believe, I am some kind of poet laureate of the poor man’s hooch. Well, my friends, let me fulfill your dreams.  You see, I’m not entirely sure (because, alcohol) but I’m pretty sure Rebel Yell was my first bourbon.  Clearly this was a successful foray, as you likely have noticed I have gained a touch of an affinity for bourbon.  Now, I’m not sure when the last time I have regular Rebel Yell was, I imagine it’s been years, but let me state for the record, I enjoyed it.  Is Rebel Yell great whiskey?  Feck no.  But as Faulkner famously observed: “there is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others.”  That’s like piss whiskey populism, or something.  Well, it just so happens that while Rebel Yell is one of those fine $15 whiskies, there is better whiskey available—and under the Rebel Yell banner none-the-less.  Don’t they call that the Stars ‘n’ Bars?

I’ll be brief in my profile of this spirit.  You have your standard Rebel Yell, perhaps a private of the infantry, which howls at 80 proof for $15 and achieves the general goal of getting you intoxicated.  Rebel Yell Small Batch Reserve, honestly doesn’t differ terribly a lot in concept.  Kentucky made bourbon, with wheat as the secondary grain is purchased from an undisclosed distiller and bottled.  Neither have a age statement, but I’d say it’s a good guess nobody is really sure.  At $20 we’re not too picky.  Small Batch Reserve bumps up to 90.6 proof, which is a significant perk in the getting drunk field.   Those are the stats, which beg the question; does bottling a Small Batch Reserve edition ensure that the south will rise again, under the banner of Rebel Yell?

Just the smell of this whiskey harkens back to the glory days of southern pride…no wait, it doesn’t.  It smells like whiskey, more particularly some dark brown sugar, vanilla, perhaps some light tobacco and just a touch of dry wood.  That’s okay, I imagine the antebellum south smelled like swamp, sweat and injustice.   Tasty tasty time… The first note is one of overwhelming honey that rolls from the tip of the tongue on down with a pretty rich mouthfeel.  Once a breath of air passes over the palate a touch of heat is exposed that rises with a somewhat acid note that quickly gives a like burn on the tonsils with an interesting cherry note seems hidden in there underneath some vanilla.  The finish is heavy on the honey, which coats the inside of your mouth pleasantly, but has a touch of a medicinal note hanging about.

Rebel

So will Jefferson Davis be adorning future dollar bills, ya’ll?  No, clearly not, that’s absurd.  But the weekend I bought this whiskey was spent cruising around the campus of Yale in an angry ’85 Camaro with seats that didn’t match, a questionable paint job, and a likely broken carburetor—which seems entirely appropriate.  While a step up from your standard Rebel Yell fare, this is still at its core a low shelf sluggin’ whiskey of the sort that makes you feel a bit more rugged for drinking it.  So while I may not be riding with Quantrill’s Raiders like Jesse James, with a bit of this in me I feel like my buddy, his Camaro and I could scare the piss out of some preps.  Or make them piss themselves laughing…it’s all the same when you’ve had a few.

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Review: Rebel Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Ah, the heritage of the old south—the honored past of the war of Northern aggression and, antebellum, the peaceful pastoral days of the plantation.  For some reason this myth of the noble old south somehow pervades, perpetuated by Rhett Butler’s mustache, Aunt Jemima and Lynyrd Skynyrd.  While debates still rage over the appropriateness of the use of the Confederate flag, other parts of the heritage of the American Civil War find their way into brand labeling.  600,000 Americans died during the war, and yet the imagery of the confederacy is a marketing tool. In the whiskey world, this heritage is sold under the “Rebel Yell” label, and associated, the whiskey I’m drinking tonight: Rebel Reserve.  Rebel Yell takes its name from the ragged battle hollers that confederate soldiers used to muster their courage and strike fear into the hearts of their enemy.  I have nothing against the soldiers of the Confederacy, most of them poor, not slave owning, and fighting for their homes. I just think it’s a bit strange to name a whiskey after the last noises people made before they were likely bayoneted.  Still, I suppose it’s better than the extreme racism that was used to sell products up until, well, Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima.  Oh, that’s right; we still have branding based on racial stereotypes.

Anyways, you’re here to read about whiskey, and as always I’ve babbled incoherently for a paragraph.  Rebel Reserve is the premium version of the decidedly not-premium Rebel Yell.  Regular Rebel Yell is quite cheap and, I must admit, rather aptly named.  It’s untamed, hot and perhaps may induce a yelp.  It, like the yells of the rebels long ago, may also lead to you waking up with a leather belt in your mouth and a stub for a leg, if you drink enough of it.  It’s probably a good thing then that Rebel Reserve is a bit more refined, like Butler’s gentry accent.  It weighs in at a not unreasonable 90.6 proof, but unlike its cracker cousin it has a bit more balance that keeps that from eating away your vocal chords.  While the firey nose hides much of this whiskey’s aroma, the whiskey settles down on the palate to reveal an almost chewy caramel quality, some of the sweetness of the wheat in it, and something a bit darker I can’t quite pinpoint.  Maybe almost raisin-like?  The finish of this coats the palate and lingers warmly, with a slightly astringent flavor left as it dries my tongue, though that could be from my dinner.  This certainly isn’t a bad whiskey, and is a nice step-up from that crazy cousin, but it’s not exactly a standout.  Of course, for about $20 for a bottle of small batch bourbon in a numbered bottle, you aren’t going to get something outstanding.  In fact, I think that’s the problem.  This is budget bourbon brands attempt to make an upgraded product with premium marketing at a mid-range price.  So to attempt to make my metaphor work, this bourbon is a bit like Rhett Butler, polished up like the southern gentry, but still crude enough to own slaves.  I suspect this may be a bit of a controversial post…Image