I was sitting in a bookstore several months ago reading Garden & Gun when I stumbled across a review for Belle Meade Bourbon. Anytime I see a review for a bourbon I’m not familiar with I take notice, but seeing as how many people point to Garden & Gun’s reviews of and articles on the Pappy Van Winkle line of bourbons to explain their jump from bourbon geek fame to mainstream America fame, I was even more intrigued.
Glancing over the Belle Meade Bourbon website, the first thing I notice is information…and a lot of it. Granted, they currently only have one product, but they give you loads more information than most distilleries. Prior to Prohibition, Nelson’s Greenbriar Distillery had one of the most popular bourbons available (Belle Meade) and the most popular Tennessee Whiskey in production (Nelson’s Greenbriar Tennessee Whiskey), reportedly outselling Jack Daniel’s 16-1. Alas, prohibition came along, forcing the family to cease production.
Fast-forward nearly 100 years and Nelson’s great-great-great grandchildren, Charles & Andy Nelson, decided to resurrect the family business. Belle Meade Bourbon is sourced from stock bourbon produced in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, and each batch is comprised of only four barrels – talk about small batch! The Nelson brothers are still working on distribution, so Belle Meade is not available in every part of the country just yet, as is the case for me – I’ve been getting my bottles from Arkansas. But if you’re a history buff, the website is definitely worth reading. They are currently in the process of outfitting their own distillery and rickhouse in Nashville, TN and plan to resurrect Charles Nelson’s recipe for Tennessee Whiskey in the coming years.
Things worth noting:
- high rye content (approximately 30%)
- only 4 barrels per batch
Age: Labeled as “straight” and I can not find an age statement on the label, so I’m guessing at least 4 years
How I Drank It: Neat
My Nose Noticed: Maple Syrup | Hint of Citrus
First Sip: Citrus | Vanilla | Caramel. Very smooth, but not as sweet as I was expecting based on the nose.
The Burn: Quick finish but my lips were tingling for a few seconds after the finish. Having shared the bottle with a few friends, this seems to be the only area of complaint (some were hoping for a longer finish).
Neat, Splash or Rocks: Definitely neat. Adding a splash of water mellows the flavors too much for my liking.
Share With: Friends, especially those new to bourbon.
Worth The Price: I’ve been paying around $30 a bottle, and at that price definitely. I’d say anything over $40 and you should shop around. This is something I’d recommend going a little out of your way to find, as their distribution network is still growing, but if you’re paying over $40 there are better bourbons in the $40+ range that are easier to find.
Bottle, Bar or Bust: Belle Meade is a great easy-drinking bourbon and a home run for the Nelson brothers. I can only hope that as the company grows, Charles & Andy maintain their meticulous attention to detail and high standard of quality, because Belle Meade has become a mainstay in my home.