Elliot Baker takes a peek at Rebel Yell’s identity in whisky’s traditional community.

There is a casual elitism that exists amongst the self-described “whisk(e)y-drinkers”.

Do you have it with water, or on the rocks? If the latter, exactly how many rocks?
Can you mix it with a chaser or must you have it straight?
Does it exist in a cocktail beyond the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan, or are even those two pushing it?

And of course, the names – you never forget the names. While gin has its gentlemen (Sipsmith and Gordon) and vodka has its novelists (Smirnoff and Belvedere), Whisky has it’s own motley crew of representatives.

Its cowboys: Jack Daniel. Jim Beam. Jameson. Johnnie Walker.
Its warriors: Glenfiddich. Lagavulin. Kavalan.
Its geezers: Larceny. Rittenhouse. Woodford.

How do you possibly navigate the market when you have a name that simply isn’t as familiar as those above? Stand on ceremony and politely wait for your turn? Or embrace that you are here to break this mould, and grip the wheel white-knuckled as you barrel towards uncertainty?

A Long Way from Louisville.

Although thousands of miles from Band of Rebels’ Kentucky home, sat in Lockside Camden feels the perfect place to be enjoying a glass of bourbon. The distressed walls, the rustic wooden overhead beams… it all feels very American, very rock and roll. Various cacti adorn the edges of the bar and the leather seats complete the defiant ambiance of the décor. This is not where you want to be drinking a Mai Tai or a Cosmopolitan. You want whisky.

The menu is concise which is in keeping with the practicality of the evening. On a night where you’ll be serving cocktails to many people at once it’s best to keep things as simple as you possibly can. Not only is this efficient for service, it also allows the palette to concentrate on the spirits rather than being bogged down by complicated recipes.

We are treated first to the Rebel’s Boulevardier – made with Rebel rye whisky, of course. The Boulevardier is often referred to as a twist on the classic Negroni, but after sampling one this evening I find myself drawn to it in a far different way. I’ve always been of the belief that a Negroni should feel like it’s arguing with itself – the Campari and vermouth in constant struggle to overcome the gin. Contrastingly, the duo seem to be on much better terms with rye, combining for a much more delicate and balanced cocktail. While the drink was a little short for the glass, it hardly matters when it tastes this good.

Up next is the Peach and Thyme Smash. Muddled peach alongside Rebel Yell bourbon mixed with a homemade thyme syrup and served over crushed ice, this was perhaps the most accessible drink of the evening. Working with peach is often a difficult task given that peach doesn’t have a particularly bold flavour. Consequently, it can often be drowned out by whatever you’re mixing it with. This was not the case here. Sweet at the front end and just a tad sour at the back, a refreshing and accessible option for a warm evening on a canal.

In addition to the bite of the Smash, we find the incredibly light-touch of the Smoking Gun. Despite being made with manzanilla sherry, an ingredient I have often cast aspersion on, the drink is not overwhelmed by its taste, and we are left with a gorgeous coupe glass filled with a smooth, orange-noted drink that would stand up in any bar in London.

The Bourbon.

Finally, the bourbon. Since this is the liquor we have all come to try it is on offer as a shot served “pickleback” style. The idea behind serving bourbon with a shot of pickle brine is to ease the burn of the alcohol and also help neutralise the taste of the whisky.

Rebel Yell is a special bourbon. It is not one for the traditionalists. Contrary to it’s name, it doesn’t scream either. This is a softer, sweeter rebel. A James Dean. With notes of caramel and honey leading the way, you can’t help but feel young and excited. This is a drink that sits with you, a friend who is comfortable in silence. It smirks behind a cloud of cigarette smoke, nods towards the most beautiful person in the bar, and offers you a sly wink as if to share in an inside joke you first made when you were kids.

Rebel Yell salutes the rituals of whisky while throwing the rules out of the window. Their name makes no secret of exactly what they are. And we love them for it.