I first had this pour at Chef Sean Brock’s Husk Restaurant, more specifically, ‘The Bar at Husk,’ which is a completely separate building adjacent to the actual restaurant. Pro-tip when attempting to eat at Husk (Charleston): ‘The Bar at Husk’ arguably has the largest selection of bourbon in the Holy City and is a great place to enjoy a couple drams of whiskey and items off the bar menu which includes the signature ‘Husk Burger’ (recently named one of the 33 Best Burgers in America by Thrillist) without a reservation or a wait. You’re welcome.
Anyway, I was already a few drinks in when I had this, but even at $14 for a pour of this whiskey at Husk, I still remember the ‘Belle Meade’ label and being very impressed with this bourbon. I made sure to take note of it, just in case I happened upon it during my next bourbon hunt. After a few weeks of searching, I found it… I was completely surprised at how much this bourbon actually costs at retail ($38) due to its high price tag at Husk and its deliciousness to boot. I had to snag a bottle and confirm my initial taste wasn’t just my inebriated senses playing tricks on me.
A little bit about the Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery: started by Charles Nelson in the city of Greenbrier, TN, it was one of three pre-Prohibition distilleries making large volumes Tennessee whiskies for the entire nation… the other two? You may have heard of them… Cascade Distillery (now called ‘George Dickel’) and a little ‘mom and pop’ operation called the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. However, after Prohibition in 1909, the distillery never recovered and had to shut its doors permanently. That is, until 2006, when Charles Nelson’s great, great grandson, Bill Nelson and HIS two sons Andy and Charlie visited Greenbrier and discovered their legacy. Currently, Andy and Charlie are running the operations over at Nelson’s Greenbrier Distillery, attempting (and succeeding) in rebuilding the business that originally helped bring the term ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ to America before Prohibition (source).
The Belle Meade label also has a couple interesting tidbits:
The horses on the front label have a history that goes back to the days of the famous Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville, Tenn. The horse on the right-hand side of the label is Bonnie Scotland, one of Belle Meade’s leading sires. Some ofBonnie Scotland’s descendants include War Admiral, Man O’ War, Seabiscuit and Secretariat, along with most of the horses that run in the Kentucky Derby today. Appropriately enough, one of Bonnie Scotland’s fillies was namedBourbon Belle. The horse on the left-hand side of the label is Brown Dick, whose great-great grand sire was simply named Whiskey.
Other than that, some other things to note: This bourbon has a higher rye content than a typical bourbon and as a “small batch,” is sourced from only four hand selected barrels (rather than the usual 10+ from other distilleries). After some more research, it appears as though all their products have placed in the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, with this particular bottle being awarded with the ‘Double Gold’ in the ‘Straight Whiskey’ category.
And now, enough talking, on to the review of Nelson Greenbrier’s Belle Meade Bourbon!
Price – $$$$$ (Retail)
Proof – 90.4 / 45.2% ABV
Nose – Hints of maple syrup, banana, and some toasted oak. Overall it has a very sweet aroma.
Taste – Smooth but a little dry (in a good way), I was expecting a bit more of a kick and a hint of spiciness due to the higher rye content but I was pleasantly surprised. Its not overly sweet (contrary to the nose) but I get notes of light brown sugar, butterscotch and some citrus. As for the finish, I get a lasting taste of vanilla and caramel, which was fantastic. It didn’t have much of a burn on the way down, but thats probably due to the fact that I’ve been drinking a lot of cask strength whiskey lately. A
Overall – It was wonderful. Its just as I [kind of] remember it, the first time I had that sip at Husk. I still can’t believe this bottle falls under the $40 price tag for this well rounded bourbon. If you’re looking to upgrade your bourbon selection without breaking the bank or maybe just looking for a bottle that would be great to drink neat, I would highly recommend this bottle. I guarantee you and your guests will love it… that is, if you decide to share.
PS. I tried it on the rocks. It was still great, but I think I still prefer this one neat. Cheers!