Rebel Yell 10 Year Single Barrel – from 2016? 2019? Hard to say…

REBEL YELL 10 YEAR SINGLE BARREL
Barrel #5008656

MASH BILL – undisclosed, though it’s generally known to be Heaven Hill’s wheated mash bill: 68% Corn, 20% Wheat, 12% Malted Barley

PROOF – 100

AGE – 10 years (the bottle states “aged since: 02/06” so it could be 10 or even 13+ years)

DISTILLERY – Rebel Yell Distillery (aka Luxco sourcing from Heaven Hill)

PRICE – $81

WORTH BUYING? – Oh yes

I bought this bottle at a corner store sometime in late 2019. It was my second bottle of Rebel Yell 10 Year. The first was a batch barreled in 09/06, for which I didn’t note the exact barrel number in my records. My current bottle was barreled in 02/06. So even though I bought it in 2019, theoretically it could have been sitting on that corner store’s shelf since as far back as September 2016, when Rebel Yell 10 Year Single Barrel was first released.

But ☟

I’ve been Googling the heck out of this brand. A good percentage of the reviews I found note either February or September 2006 as the “aged since” date for their barrel. Those from other dates help to sort out the timeline. Here are ten examples, in order of publication:

  • It’s Bourbon Night reviewed a 09/05 barrel, #4744186, in December 2016.
  • Mash & Drum reviewed a 02/07 barrel, #5132348, in October 2018, specifying it was a 2018 release, making that bottle 11+ years old.
  • Whiskey for the Ages reviewed a 09/06 barrel, #5083248, in March 2019
  • The Bourbon Guild reviewed a 09/06 barrel, #5083180, in April 2019.
  • Whiskey Vault reviewed barrel #5008646 in September 2019, and though they don’t mention the “aged since” date, based on the barrel number—just 10 off from my #5008656—one can safely guess it was very likely aged since 02/06 as well.
  • Bourbon Culture reviewed a 09/06 barrel, #5083178, in January 2020.
  • Scotch Test Dummies reviewed a 12/05 barrel, #4765257, also in January 2020, which they say was released in Fall 2019. If true, that would make it a 14+ year bottling.
  • ADHD Whiskey also reviewed a 12/05 barrel, #4765260, in July 2020.
  • Breaking Bourbon reviewed a 02/06 barrel, #5008688, in April 2021.
  • The Whiskey Shelf reviewed a 09/06 barrel, #5083249, in May 2021, which, like me, they found in 2019.

Based on those ten randomly selected reviews dating from December 2016 to May 2021, it would indeed seem the barrel I have was very likely bottled and released in 2019, making it roughly 13 years old. Generally, it would seem Rebel Yell 10 Year is seldom actually only 10 years old. This is bait for whiskey nerds like me who are willing to get lost down the rabbit hole of dates and laser codes and whatnot, wanting to know as much as possible about the stats of what we’re drinking.

However old it is, at this bottle’s uncorking I was wowed. That had not been the case with the 09/06 barrel I’d had previously. That bottle was good, with the same basic flavor notes, but not wowing. The difference is a rich depth and vibrancy that was immediately apparent in this current bottle, right from the nose. On into the taste and finish, the flavors were dark and textured and lively, led by chocolate cake and deep red cherry notes, everything flowing smoothly along a luxuriant velvety texture. At once complex and showbizzy, it intrigued as much as it entertained.

All of this was as true again the next night when I tried it a second time. If only Rebel Yell 10 Year’s cousin, the extravagantly packaged (and much pricier) Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond, were as exceptional! Go ahead and pick any actually amazing unicorn, and this Rebel Yell 10 is right up there.

That was my impression at uncorking and night two. Now here we are, nearing two weeks after uncorking and four pours into the bottle. These brief notes were taken using a traditional Glencairn.

COLOR – sunbaked terra cotta oranges into baked cherry reds

NOSE – baked pastries with cream or custard filling and sprinkled with fresh cinnamon, sparkly oak spice, birch, lemon zest, black pepper, cola and sarsaparilla, faint baked cherry

TASTE – mouthwatering and thick, with the wood spices dancing vibrantly on the underlying pastry and caramel notes, and deep down a dark baked cherry undercurrent

FINISH – oak, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, a bit of clove, chocolate caramel, the cola note wafts through…

OVERALL – 🦄

Drier today than at uncorking, this 02/06 Rebel Yell 10 Year remains an uncommonly outstanding bourbon nonetheless. Today it’s reminding me a bit more of Remus Repeal Reserve than Old Fitzgerald. It’s those rich and refined wood spice notes. The Remus excels in a particular antique tumbler that I have, so I poured what I had left into that glass.

Indeed. The Rebel Yell 10 fits right into that glass. The aromas are less forthcoming until I really dip my nose in to take a sip. Then I’m hit by a wave of dusty old wood notes as from a fine antique store. One sip brings on the oak and baking spices along with a stronger caramel note than in the Glencairn. And the finish now has some nicely complex orange peel notes, like the peel was singed or smoked before being plopped into the cocktail.

I haven’t been seeing Rebel Yell 10 Year show up as often as it once did. Luxco might be shifting its priorities. They recently came out with some 12 Year Single Barrels, which may have drawn on stock that would have gone toward the 10 Year line. None of those 12 Year SiBs have made it on to California shelves, to my knowledge.

So I’m not sure what to offer by way of any recommendation here, other than to say if you come across a dusty bottle from this batch #5008656 at a fair price, nab it. Or if you’re eyeing an Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond, pause, and look about to see whether a Rebel 10 or 12 Year Single Barrel might be available near you. It will be cheaper, and might be better!

This delicious bourbon is a good reminder for me to keep my eyes open wider to the possibilities of what “unicorn” can mean. Could mean expensive. Could mean unnaturally popular. Likely always means rare and sought after. But sometimes it’s the taste that’s unicorn—meaning it’s uncommonly good. This particular Rebel 10 Year takes me straight to uncommonly good bottles like Remus Repeal Reserve V, and a 2017 Smooth Ambler Old Scout 12 Year, both fairly easy to find at the time of their release and decently priced. So, one need not pay three digits for a rare experience.

Cheers!

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