Wheated bourbon is a hot commodity these days. With so many new bourbon drinkers out there, they naturally gravitate towards reading about which bourbons are considered the best.
Pappy Van Winkle occupies the spot on most lists (or at least it used to) and with it comes the assumption that wheated bourbon must be superior.
Heaven Hill has had a wheated bourbon for a while, but has used it mainly in low cost bottom-shelfers like Larceny or Old Fitzgerald Prime.
They never seemed to let the stuff age any longer than about 7 years old. That is until they released their Old Fitzgerald decanter series in early 2018. Even then, their wheated bourbon was considered inferior compared to the likes of Buffalo Trace or Maker’s Mark.
Why am I talking about Heaven Hill in a Luxco product review? Because Luxco has had a history of sourcing from bourbon from Heaven Hill.
There was even a brief stint where their master distiller was producing his own whiskey on Heaven Hill stills. The wheated bourbon went into the Rebel (Yell) label and also the David Nicholson 1843 label.
It was typically young, being in the ballpark of 4-5 years old (except for Rebel Yell Single Barrels that were at least 10 years old).
But in 2020, as Luxco had began to ween itself off of the Heaven Hill teet (and before shocking the world after being bought up by MGP), they unleashed two young single barrel lines in the form of Ezra Brooks and Rebel. The Rebel label before you was likely distilled to 140 proof and barreled at 125.
The high barrel entry proof is extremely strange for a producer of wheated bourbon because wheated distillate responds so much better if it is distilled and barreled at a lower proof (a practice that every other major distillery follows).
But the price is right on these single barrels (around $30) so I decided to pick one up from Rural Inn when I saw they had picked a barrel.
This was bottled at 113 proof (Rebel SiB’s come in a couple of options for proof, none are barrel strength) and likely right around the 4 year old mark.
Would this prove to be a fantastic bottle and blow away the competition like Old Weller Antique or Maker’s Mark Cask Strength while being $20 cheaper? There’s only one way to find out. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.
Nose: Astringency hits first followed by some aggressive caramel scents. Grainy undertones and light vanilla are present too. “Green” wood. The nose comes off as somewhat unbalanced between youthful rawness and pleasant sweetness.
Palate: The peppery bite and stinging heat that reminds you of the fiery cinnamon that is used in Asian cooking. A bit of acetone comes through and mingles with the burnt caramel. It’s raw and untamed and there’s not much sweetness.
Finish: Bitter oak, fresh leather and some peanut brittle wrap things up. The finish may be the best part of this dram if only because it’s missing the astringency of the nose and the acetone of the palate.
If I had tasted this blind, I would’ve assumed it was a craft whiskey. The lack of age has done no favors to this bourbon and it doesn’t even seem as if it has rounded the corner from pulling out the harsher wood notes to becoming softer and sweeter.
I tasted an Ezra Brooks single barrel from the New Jersey Bourbon and Yacht Club that was also similarly aged (and priced) yet used the Heaven Hill ryed bourbon mashbill (78/10/12). It was much better than this and deserves your money instead.
Lux Row wasted a good opportunity to take all of these wheated bourbon barrels that they sourced from Heaven Hill and age them for a longer period of time.
As I stated, I’m generally not a fan of Heaven Hill wheated bourbon but it still has the ability to become respectable once its age reaches double digits.
Rebel Distiller Collection is just too young to be good. Don’t let the cheap price fool you, this is a bourbon that is going to set on your shelf for a very long time before you find a way to mix enough cocktails with it.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
*Bourbon Culture is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.