Color me extremely surprised: apparently the bourbon pre-dates the Billy Idol song. Which, as Billy Idol songs go, has always been one of my favorites.
Now, to no one’s surprise: the Rolling Stones are big drinkers. Aside from their affinity for the Tequila Sunrise (a perennially under-appreciated classic), Keef and the gang were big fans of Rebel Yell bourbon. Billy Idol, having reached superstar heights after Generation X and his first self-titled album, was invited to go out drinking with the Stones. They passed around a bottle of this particular whiskey and Billy Idol knew a good title when it fell into his lap.
Of, course, the question is whether, when you pour yourself a glass of this in the midnight hour, you’ll also say MOMOMO. I think the answer is a somewhat less-enthusiastic “sure.” Rebel Yell has a very interesting fruity note. To me, the first pour indicated it was a good day… for a… white raisin. A good day to… sip agaaa~aain. I mean, to mix song metaphors. (Last one, I promise.)
To some, Rebel Yell is going to be a weak bourbon. It’s wheated, which typically lends a softer, less spicy profile to the whisky right from the get-go. It’s also bottled at 40% ABV, which again mutes some of the delivery. It tastes young.
Now, I’d read long ago that the principal of Maker’s Mark (the maker, Bill Samuels Jr.) once jokingly said that his ancestors would probably consider the currently-bottled iteration of Maker’s to be “sissy whiskey.” If so, Rebel Yell is even more sissified at a lower proof and (presumably) less barrel aging. To be frank, there aren’t a lot of bourbon hallmarks here. The corn doesn’t come out swinging, and there are core flavors of peach and bubblegum rather than wood, cinnamon, char, or vanilla. This is decidedly light stuff.
The other side of this coin is that I think Rebel Yell makes a fantastic cocktail. My beef with whiskey drinks is that the spirit often doesn’t get out of its own way. Here, an old fashioned made with Rebel Yell will let you get a good sense of how bitters and simple syrup support the bourbon, and I think you’ll be able to better appreciate the texture and citrus in a whiskey sour made with Rebell Yell over some of the high-ABV offerings in the bourbon category. In spite of the GUTS AND GLORY name, it has a very feminine nature.
Geeks may find it interesting that Rebel Yell is yet another Heaven Hill product, which isn’t listed under their webpage of miscellaneous brands because they produce it under contract for Luxco (a liquor conglomerate that mostly seems to stick to bottom-shelf fare). Readers will note I have an affinity for even some of the more lowly of Heaven Hill’s offerings.
Note the score is based on your ability to source this stuff within the US at about $14 bucks or under, which shouldn’t be hard. It’s a budget liquor and I think it needs to be evaluated as such.