Repeal Day is the celebration of the repeal of prohibition on December 5, 1933. Prohibition, also known as the “noble experiment,” was the government’s attempt to outlaw the production, sale and shipment of alcohol and intoxicating beverages across the country. It spanned 13 years (1920-1933) and was a rough and dark time for many reasons. It resulted in the decline of several industries including manufacturing plants, farms and of course alcohol producers. Not to mention caused an increase in organized crime as bootlegging became increasingly popular – falling under control of gangsters like Al Capone and Bugs Moran.
As shown in the newsreel above, enforcers in the nation’s Bureau of Prohibition, termed “barrel busters,” destroyed endless stocks of aging whisky throughout the era. The only companies permitted to sell stocks of distilled spirits during this time were those given medicinal licensing. Although the positive economic effects of the repeal of prohibition were felt almost immediately, it didn’t change the fact that several distilleries around the globe were shut down, never to reopen their doors. Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery was one of those companies. Until now that is.
It starts with Belle Meade Bourbon, the newly revived label from Andy and Charlie Nelson, the great-great-great grandsons of Charles Nelson, who founded the distillery back in the mid-19th century. At its high-point, the old Green Brier Distillery was producing 380k gallons annually and was known the world over – this is compared to Jack Daniels, whose production capped out at 23k gallons at the time. Over a century later, brothers Andy and Charlie Nelson are working to bring the family whiskey business back to life.
Belle Meade Bourbon is comprised of a high-rye mashbill and is what some would call extremely small batch – a vatting of only four casks per batch. There’s no age statement on the bottle but it is said to be aged between 5-7 years. The purpose of Belle Meade, which is currently being sourced from Indiana (Midwest Grain Products [MGP, formerly LDI] no doubt) is to bring in revenue until the two brothers can get the stills up and running. Once operational they plan to begin producing the old family recipe of Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey, which will then be the flagship product for the distillery.
Price: Approx $35/750ml
Nose: The rye is clearly present at first with a nice balance of caramel and vanilla followed up with mint, cinnamon candies, oak, toffee chews and spiced orange peel.
Palate: Starts off with sweet, oaky vanilla that develops into cinnamon, clove and a bit of mint around mid-palate with hints of sweet peppered corn and slightly drying toffee with honey-like sweetness. The cinnamon stays with it as it moves right into the finish.
Finish: Moderate with oak, warming cinnamon and toffee.
Overall this is very good Bourbon with a nice amount of character. It has a huge rye backbone that brings about all these warming spices, but it seems to be in constant struggle with its underlying sweetness that works to keep it in check. Perhaps a little more wood interaction would help bring more balance. It’s still very much enjoyable and worth trying out at this price point. The only other thing is that although it’s available in most markets, it isn’t distributed in MA. Check to see if Belle Meade is available in your neck of the woods, or grab a bottle of your favorite whisky and raise a glass to the rich traditions of American (and worldwide) distillation and spirits. Cheers!