Every so often, some troglodytic plebe who knows nothing about whisky will insist that people can't really tell one whisky from another: "They did that blind taste test with top sommeliers and they couldn't tell red wine from white!" Right, one stupid survey and suddenly I can't know good from bad or Laphroaig from Loch Du? Slag right off, mate.
It's just another example of the virus of cultural relativism: the notion that objective beauty can't exist because it's fat-shaming (or in this case, spirit-shaming), and any comparison in quality is somehow fraught with fraud.
Then there's another question: can you recognize a wheater from a rye-recipe bourbon? Sku recently asked that question on his (temporarily-retired) blog, and my answer to his query is, "sometimes." With hotter, lower proof versions? Usually not. Top shelf stuff? Yeah, bruh.
Before we get too far: for the uninitiated who found this page accidentally while looking for char-fetish or barrel-related porn, "wheaters" are wheated bourbons, which use wheat instead of rye (in addition to the 51%+ corn), and have stronger notes of vanilla and caramel with less spice.
Of course, the postmodernists would say that my categories are antiquated; that, like gender, there are actually 78 different types of bourbons; and a rye-recipe can convert into a wheater if is identifies that way. Therefore, it was bigoted and wheater-normative of me to presume this bourbon's origins. Somebody send Antifa to drill a brick through my window!
Wheaters are particularly sought after due to the excellent-but-overhyped Pappy Van Winkles and wildly brilliant Bernheim cask strength wheaters (which appeared as Willett wax-top bottlings distilled on 4/6/93 and bottled around 2010). Those Willetts are my favorite bourbons of all time.
Today, people chase NAS Weller Reserve like it's actually drinkable and sell Weller 12 for 5x MSRP on Facebook groups to poseur mopes trying to drink "poor man's Pappy." Strangely though, nobody wants Maker's Mark cask strength or Maker's 46 cask strength, though I find the former to be quite solid.
This latest Rebel Yell entry snuck under the radar. Not much hype and scant buzz on the bottomless cesspool of FB message boards. Largely ignored by parasitic flippers and beta-male internet reviewers. And that's probably because bottom-shelf Rebel Yell is pretty bleak: it's sold by Luxco, which re-bottles Heaven Hill distillate at 80 proof and very young, probably 4 years on average. So people probably figured this release would be equally bad. They were wildly mistaken.
Like its NAS sibling, this Rebel Yell is also distilled at Heaven Hill, but it's a 10 year old, single barrel, 100 proof, non-chill filtered proper version of the spirit. Keep in mind, this is the same stuff that went into the rightly-lauded Parker's Heritage Wheated Bourbon 10 year old (4th Ed) which sells for $1500 plus now on secondary markets.
And frankly, kids, I think it tastes very similar. Huge wood on the nose, reminiscent of those Willett Bernheims (not to be confused Bernheim Wheat Whisky which is a mediocre release from Heaven Hill; no, I mean the wheated bourbon from the now-shuttered Bernheim distillery). The flavors really do remind me of the PHC 4th Ed., with a thick body on the spirit, some antique wood, musk, and that signature caramel. It's not too sweet. There's some pepper and that je ne sais quoi that makes the best wheaters memorable and worthy of chasing.
I'd say Weller 12 is an 82/B-, give or take: fine but nothing I'd reach for. This is leagues beyond. Frankly, it's better than most of the recent releases of Pappy Lot B and Old Rip Van Winkle 12 Year.
I did a side-by-side with this bottle and Pappy 15 Year (I got pics to prove it, yo), and found them to be of very similar quality (my bottle of Pappy is a 2010, so probably a bit of Bernheim mixed with Buffalo Trace distillate). In fact, I've opened three bottles of this Rebel Yell, all with different barrel numbers, and they've all be monster home runs in their own unique ways.
After opening my first bottle, I hoarded this release like it was going to be the post-apocalypse currency and I'd be using it to barter for wives and cattle. Now, I'm prepared to reveal it's magic to you, the unwashed masses. Consider it my good deed for the year.
90 pts/A-. By far, the best general release bourbon of the year. This bottle is a freakish value at $45. Even at higher prices, it's worth it. When the postmodern socialists finally take over America, I'll sell these to buy a fake passport and flee to Russia.