Classification: Blend of Straight Bourbons
Company: Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery
Distillery: Sourced from undisclosed distilleries in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee
Release Date: June 2022 (Ongoing)
Age: NAS (Aged at least 4 years per TTB regulations)
MSRP: $60 (2022)
Nelson Brothers Reserve Bourbon is one of two new bottles being released under the Nelson Brothers name, the other being Nelson Brothers Classic Bourbon. Both releases will be available nationwide, replacing Belle Meade as it transitions to a Tennessee-only released product. According to the press release, “Nelson Brothers marks a new chapter for Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery,” says Andy Nelson, co-founder of Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery. “It honors our great-great-great grandfather Charles Nelson’s legacy, while building on our rich family heritage to position the portfolio for successful growth in the future.” Unlike the company’s Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey which is distilled and aged in-house, the whiskeys used in this blend are sourced from other distilleries.
The nose opens with creamy aromas of caramel, marshmallow, vanilla, and a touch of butterscotch. Underneath are scents of charred and aged oak that add dimension. A sprinkle of baking spice rounds things out. Despite coming across as surprisingly light considering the proof, the scents play well together. A nice opening to the sip.
Sweet notes kick things off in the form of light brown sugar and cinnamon-baked apples. A subtle rye and peppercorn blend adds a nice spice dimension to balance things out. Like the nose, charred and aged oak make a showing, but aren't the center of attention. Straightforward and to the point, it doesn’t disappoint.
Rye spice charges forward along with aged oak. Notes of dry leather and peppercorn quickly join in. The spice notes ramp up as the other flavors fade away, leaving a long, lingering heat to enjoy. It’s a subtle but nice way to end things and is in line overall with the rest of the sip.
Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery grew their name on its Belle Meade Bourbon brand. Belle Meade Bourbon is a pre-Prohibition brand originally produced by the Charles Nelson Distillery before it was shut down during Prohibition. Nelson’s great-great-great-grandsons revived the brand and began rebottling it in 2013. Belle Meade Bourbon is sourced from Lawrenceburg, Indiana, and used a proprietary blend of mashbills and yeast strains and was a high rye averaging 6-8 years old. However, in 2022 the company made the announcement that Belle Meade would transition to a product only available in Tennessee.
Enter Nelson Brothers bourbons. Nelson Brothers Reserve Bourbon and its lower-proof counterpart, Nelson Brothers Classic Bourbon, are meant to be the new nationwide bourbons by the brand. Where Belle Meade came in a standard variety of barrel-finished versions, for now, Nelson Brothers bourbons are more straightforward blended bourbons with no indication given if they also use the same proprietary blend of mashbills and yeast strains that Belle Meade used. Sadly, the company doesn’t release as much information on the brand as it used to with Belle Meade, which hopefully they’ll correct in the future.
Compared to older bottles of Belle Meade Bourbon Cask Strength Reserve, Nelson Brothers Reserve Bourbon doesn’t deliver as dynamic of a sip. While not bad, it’s more straightforward and has a hard time standing out from the crowd. In a marketplace where more brands are releasing as much information as possible on what bourbon makes up their blends, Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery seems to be going in the opposite direction and shares as little information as possible. Hopefully, this is something the company changes with future releases, but for now, based on the sip it offers and the information (or lack thereof) the company discloses, Nelson Brothers Reserve Bourbon has a hard time standing out on its own.
On the surface, Nelson Brothers Reserve Bourbon’s $60 price tag seems reasonable, until you start dissecting things a little more. Released from a distillery whose name won’t be familiar to many modern bourbon drinkers, a blended bourbon without any information on origins, mashbills, or ages used, leaves a lot to be desired. Add in that the overall sip varies between average and slightly above average and you start to second-guess the price. While $60 has slowly become the norm for many bourbons, it comes across high in this instance. While large distilleries constantly put out aged bourbons for less, thanks to economies of scale, other whiskey blends offer more intriguing sips for around the same price such as Pursuit United Bourbon or the Bardstown Fusion Series line. At the end of the day, this doesn’t deliver the best value for the price.
An easy-sipping bourbon that delivers a straightforward pour, Nelson Brothers Reserve Bourbon is ultimately held back by its price and inability to stand out in the marketplace.
Nelson Brothers Reserve Bourbon is an interesting whiskey. While it’s blended well, it contains not a single exciting bone in its body. The sip is pleasant overall, with a nicely constructed palate and finish that takes simpler flavor notes and works them together in harmony. However, it does little to try to stand out in the marketplace against its peers and is priced on the higher side for what it delivers. More so when you consider the fact that very little to no information is released about the bourbons being used in the blend. It’s not as intriguing as the old Belle Meade Bourbon that it replaces was, though I’m sure that’s due in part to the stock they have access to source from versus when they bought the barrels used in Belle Meade all those years ago. Taking all of these things into account, you end up with an average bourbon that certainly won’t disappoint, but it also won’t leave a lasting impression either.