he brand Rebel Yell was created by Charlie Farnsley in the late 1940s. Farnsley was a Kentucky politician who would become mayor of Louisville and the nephew of Alex T. Farnsley, one of the owners of Stitzel-Weller Distillery. He created this private label to use as gifts to friends and for political purposes. The label at the time was simply an American Civil War cannon firing a cannonball.
In 1961, with the centennial of the American Civil War, Stitzel-Weller acquired the label from Farnsley and released it below the Mason-Dixon Line. The brand remained part of the Stitzel-Weller portfolio as a 5 year old, 90 proof expression of their wheated Bourbon until United Distillers acquired the distillery and brand. They lowered the proof to 80 proof and tried to sell it worldwide. It did not do well in the foreign markets so they sold the brand along with many others to Heaven Hill, who in turn, sold it to what is now Luxco.
Luxco has slowly been changing the image of Rebel Yell, making it more of a premium brand image. One version is this bottle of Rebel Distiller’s Collection. This is a single barrel, private selection bottle from Westport Whiskey & Wine. Westport Whiskey & Wine is well known here in Louisville for the high quality of their private selection picks and this bottle is no exception.
Rebel Distiller’s Collection Single Barrel Bourbon
Age: Barreled September 2014, Bottled December 2020
Nose: Caramel, apples, some baking spices and oak.
Taste: Caramel, apples, allspice and a hint of black pepper and some dry oak tannins. Tasted with a dried cranberry and the apple comes forward –sweet and ripe red delicious apples, with more baking spices – allspice and cinnamon, than pepper. Tasted with a pecan brings out some citrus notes of orange or tangerine instead of apple and the spice is allspice and cardamom.
Finish: Long and dry with oak tannins and black pepper. The dried cranberry brings an apple fruit note to the oak and spice finish. The pecan makes the finish dry with a citrus and spice flavor and only a hint of oak.
I would pair Rebel Distiller’s Collection with a cigar with lots of chocolate notes in the smoke because I think it will complement the caramel notes in the taste and the oak in the finish. I would go with a My Father “The Judge” cigar.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller