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Aug 3, 2012 06:33 PM

Rebel Yell Bourbon -- a "wheated" bourbon

I found a recipe in the newspaper the other day -- adapted from Southern Living -- for a bourbon-lemonade iced tea with mint. It sounded good, and thought I'd take it to my ladies' games night next week.

Not being a bourbon drinker, I went to Goody Goody and asked the salesperson to suggest a decent bourbon that would work in that recipe -- a reasonably-priced one, but also one that would be acceptable to a bourbon drinker. After some thought, he suggested Rebel Yell, which he said was a lower-tier Weller product. When I got home, I tried a bit on the rocks, and was pleasantly surprised that it was smooth and more acceptable to my palate than other bourbons I've had through the years. (But maybe my taste buds have changed as I've aged!)

I went online and found it is a "wheated' bourbon -- which apparently is unlike most other bourbons -- and is primarily a Southern product not widely available in all parts of the country.

What is a "wheated" bourbon, and, for bourbon drinkers who've tried it, what is your opinion of Rebel Yell?

Thanks for your thoughts.

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  1. The standard bourbon recipe is corn (which must be at least 51%), rye and a little bit of barley. Wheated bourbons, or "wheaters", use wheat in place of the rye as the secondary grain. Rye tends to add spice to a bourbon; using wheat in its place softens those notes and can also add some citric notes.

    Rebel Yell is a bottom shelf wheater. It's not part of the "Weller line". It used to be made by the famed Stitzel-Weller distillery but that distillery closed 20 years ago and the name is now owned by a private company based in St. Louis. The whiskey, itself, is distilled by Heaven Hill in Kentucky.

    It's not only southern. It's certainly available all over California. Frankly, I think Rebel Yell is horrible stuff. I find it chemically and unpleasant.

    If you like Rebel Yell, you might want to try some other wheated bourbons, such as Maker's Mark or anything from the Weller line (such as Old Weller and Weller 12 year old). The Weller bourbons, in particular, are fabulous. These might be a bit more expensive than Rebel Yell, but shouldn't break the bank.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sku

      Every time I grab Old Weller Antique off the shelf and look at other bourbons that are perfectly respectable, but $5 - $10 more, I have to laugh a little.

      1. re: sku

        I like any of the Weller line at the "reasonable" end of the price point ....

      2. Thanks so much, sku and tom. Obviously I'm not a connoisseur of bourbon. That sip or two of Rebel Yell was probably the first taste of bourbon that I've had in the past 50 years or so -- yes, I'm old! But I must say, it was not reminiscent of the bourbon I remember. My parents drank bourbon (don't remember the brand), but I never liked it. When I went "east" (Virginia) to undergraduate school and then on to NYC for a career, I developed a taste for Scotch -- so never willingly drank bourbon again. Then, eons later, I found this recipe, and thought I'd try it, And, as I said, the sips I took (as an experiment, of course!) were surprisingly unlike bourbon as I remembered it.

        I really appreciate your responses. If I found Rebel Yell to be okay, it's possible I might learn to like bourbon again!

        What would you suggest for the punch I mentioned (tea, lemonade, mint, bourbon)? And, also, for a reintroduction to, and a possible liking of, bourbon? Thanks so much for your help.

        14 Replies
        1. re: peppergal

          I agree with everything SKU said. If you like Rebel Yell (which I haven't tried in a long time, but don't recall fancying too much) then give Old Weller Antique (Original 107 Brand) a chance. It's a little bit more, but nothing too expensive. Even my girlfriend didn't mind it, and she is far from a fan of bourbon. Also, you may find Buffalo Trace tasty. It's not a wheated bourbon, but it is characterized by noticeable hints of vanilla and an overall sweetness. It's one of my favorite easy sippers.

          1. re: The Big Crunch

            Thanks so much, Big Crunch. I'll try -- and appreciate -- your suggestions. Maybe there's hope for me yet!

          2. re: peppergal

            The quality of bourbon 50 years ago can't compare to those made now. The best ones back then are not as good as low levels ones today. I have tasted bourbon and rye from every decade it was made since 1915 and the ones coming out today are far superior. So I am not surprised that in comparison to ones you had when you were younger you found Rebel Yell better. (I don't have any comments on Rebel Yell itself since while I know I have tried it, I can't remember a single thing about it.

            I agree with what sku and Crunch say.

            I have heard good things about Rebel Reserve, which is also inexpensive, but the higher end of the Rebel Yell line.

            Here's a link to all the "Wheaters"

            1. re: JMF

              As an aside, I've always found it -- I don't know if "intriguing" or "odd" is the right word -- that I really enjoy Rye, but I *generally* prefer wheated Bourbons over the more "traditional" corn-and-rye Bourbons.

              1. re: JMF

                I am on vacation in Myrtle beach and found a bottle of Rebel Reserve for $18 so I grabbed it, the price back home in NC is $28.

                I opened it and tasted a little - I always thought Rebel Yell tasted like a halfway decent Bourbon that had been watered down, whereas the reserve has a similar flavor but without the watered down taste.

                I don't like to pass judgment on a freshly opened bottle, especially with Bourbon because I have had several change noticeably after being open for a week or two, but my initial impression is that it is a good buy for the $18 I paid but not worth $28. It has a decent flavor with a fair amount of spice, but the finish is a little on the harsh side, this might change after being open. Not really in the same league as others I can get for around $20-24 such as Old weller 107, Elijah craig 12 yr or Old grand dad 114.

                1. re: JMF

                  JMF, that wheater list is a bit out of date (Very Very Old Fitzgerald hasn't been on the market for 30 years) and has some errors (Virginia Gentleman). I recently put a list together that I think is more complete:

                    1. re: sku

                      THANK YOU for this, sku and JMF. I've had a lot of conversations with my dad about bourbon and rye over the years, and he and his best friend are distinctly at odds about which bourbons they like. Dad does not like wheated bourbons...Friend definitely gravitates to them. I bought a bottle of Rebel Yell (Friend's cheap bourbon of choice) a few months ago to figure out if I actually preferred it to the un-wheated stuff Dad raised me on...turns out, I have a strong aversion to it. I think RY really highlights the flavor we don't like in wheated bourbons. I can drink Maker's, but I've only bought it when I was living in Canada and could pick it up at the duty-free after trips home.

                      Dad has been saying for years that he finds it very hard to figure out which bourbons are wheated without tasting them, so I'll pass on this list so he doesn't waste his money on something he won't like.

                      1. re: Wahooty

                        I think it would be a mistake to pass on the excellent Old weller 107 because it is a wheated Bourbon, because I don't find it to have much at all in common with Makers (which I find very bland and sweet) or Rebel Yell.

                  1. re: peppergal

                    peppergal: For the use you intend it for at present [a mixed lemonade/iced tea with mint], I see nothing wrong with Rebel Yell ... If you intend to regularly imbibe, the advice hereinabove is excellent.

                    1. re: hawkeyeui93

                      Actually Hawkeye, I have a bottle of Rebel Yell I got very cheaply a while back (IIRC $12 for a handle after mail-in rebate) and I use it for those times when my palate is a little fatigued but I feel like having a little more to drink, but don't want to waste my good stuff. I also use it as a mixer when I am experimenting with a new recipe or using low-end ingredients.

                      1. re: ncyankee101

                        Yankee, I, too, could drink it neat as well. I just wanted the OP to not get overwhelmed by a few of the comments on here concerning it being inferior bourbon ....

                        1. re: hawkeyeui93

                          Hawekeye, I realize that - what I meant was it is not a Bourbon I buy to drink when I am looking to enjoy a good Bourbon, but it is drinkable enough to - uhhh - keep a buzz going I guess is a good way to put it ;-) (in fact this thread inspired me to have some now, since my palate was wrecked a while back by some good ryes).

                  2. Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones was once known to be an avid drinker of Rebel Yell. In fact, Billy Idol has said in his episode of VH1 Storytellers that his hit "Rebel Yell" was inspired upon joining Richards, Mick Jagger and Ron Wood in taking swigs from a bottle of Rebel Yell at a gathering they all attended. He liked the sound of the brand name, and said he recalled that he actually asked if they (Jagger and Richards) had no objections to his use of the brand name for a future song title. "I've got it now . . . little did they know."