Rebel 10 Year Single Barrel – 2022

Barrel #5726982 (2022)

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 (likely 11-12 years)

DISTILLERY – Lux Row Distillers (sourcing from Heaven Hill)

PRICE – $109

WORTH BUYING? – not quite

In 2017, my first experience with the then Rebel Yell 10 Year SiB was fine, a pleasant but distractingly bitter and easily forgotten bourbon. My second Rebel Yell 10 SiB, however—a 2018 bottling that I finally uncorked in 2022—was absolutely exquisite, worthy of unicorn distinction for the masterclass it offered in classic dark bourbon flavors.

Today’s bottle is my first since the brand stopped yelling and became simply Rebel. New labels don’t necessarily mean new whiskey, of course. Rebranding is a marketing department’s attempt at rejuvenating popular attention. I don’t know what data indicated this brand needed a goose. It seemed to be doing fine. But okay. Nothing wrong with switching up your look. The real question remains, how does the bourbon taste?

This bottle was released in 2022. Given it was barreled in 2010, that means the bourbon is somewhere between 11 and 12 years old. That’s a ripe old age in today’s bourbon market. But does the experience, not just time and the Bourbon Boom, justify the $20 price increase since I bought it last in 2018? And just a year prior, in 2017, that first bottle I picked up was even cheaper at $65, so, quite a price increase over five years. How much will Rebel 10 cost next year?

Time will tell. But regarding how it tastes this year, here we are, three weeks after uncorking and already over three-quarters of the way through the bottle—so clearly it ain’t bad! These brief notes were taken using a traditional Glencairn.

COLOR – hazy medium-oranges, with brass and mandarine-orange highlights

NOSE – dry baking spices and oak, dry caramel fudge, soft wheat bread crust, something herbal like a bushel of dried long-stemmed grasses, a slightly metallic well water note, faint baked cherry

TASTE – the oak and dried herbal notes dominate substantially, with a bit of dark chocolate fudge to soften them, also roasted peanut shell

FINISH – black pepper, dried herbs, dry dark chocolate fudge, a small dollop of white sugar frosting, thick oak smoothly sanded

OVERALL – a moody, broody wheated bourbon, firmly committed to the oak

Today, this bourbon is much like my memory of that initial 2017 experience—fine, dry, bitter stopping just short of off-putting. There are some pleasant oak and chocolate notes to be enjoyed here. And there have been other pours from this bottle over the past three weeks where the sweeter caramel and cherry notes have leaned in much more forwardly. In those instances I inevitably poured a second glass. Today I’m not so inclined.

Adding to today’s experience is that odd, slightly metallic well water note. It’s not pleasant. Luckily it does not carry on much past the nose, though it wafts in and out a bit on the finish. It’s akin to creosote and rubber notes to me, something I just can’t get past when it’s there.

What this third experience with the Rebel 10 Year SiB line tells me is that, despite impressive specs in today’s bourbon market, this is a highly idiosyncratic brand. With the price now at three digits on average, I doubt I’ll continue to buy it, unless I heard from someone whose palate I trust that a particular release was exceptional. If Rebel 10 was always like that unicorn-worthy 2018 bottle, I’d feel okay about paying now and then to experience it again. However, the brand has demonstrated itself to be too like the ol’ Henry McKenna SiB line, that wild card that in its $30 days was a fine gamble, but now at $70 minimum isn’t worth that much, even less at secondary prices.

I’m surprised by this bourbon today. You can see how quickly I’ve gone through the bottle in three weeks. If most pours were like today’s there’d be much more left to go at this point. Today takes me back to the bottle’s first pour or two, so maybe it’s pulling a “full circle” scenario on me. Or maybe in this final quarter things will sweeten up again…?

Rather than continue to invest in Rebel 10, it might be better to hold out for a lower-aged Old Fitzgerald, which though varied from release to release at least delivers more dependably, and costs less when bottled at lower ages. Cheaper Maker’s Mark limited releases also make a good wheated alternative. With so many choices now, one need not settle for a fickle brand.


One thought on “Rebel 10 Year Single Barrel – 2022

  1. yeah, you gotta stick to the older Rebel Yell SiBs, which are almost always 12+ years of goodness. rarely on shelves these days but occasionally not that far above MSRP on secondary (thought they get snapped quickly when that’s the case)

    Liked by 1 person

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