By Father John Rayls
Charles Nelson got into the whiskey trade as a grocer in Civil War-era Nashville, at the time both the world’s second most fortified city (after Washington, DC) and a boomtown, thanks to the huge logistical base there supporting the Union war effort. Nelson arrived just before secession, getting in on the ground floor as demand for his products soared. Whiskey was among his top sellers.
After the war, Nelson branched out by buying his whiskey supplier, taking up distilling. The distillery, known then as “Old No. 5,” became a top producer in the Volunteer State. The site is now a historic landmark. Yet Nelson passed away in 1891, and in 1909 Tennessee got into Prohibition years before the rest of the country, passing its own statewide ban on the production and sale of alcohol. Green Brier was not among the distilleries revived after Prohibition.
In 2009, two of Charles grandsons, Andy and Charlie Nelson, opened a new Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery under the same name, and are now offering four whiskies. These are Belle Meade Bourbon, Belle Meade Bourbon Sherry Cask Finish, Belle Meade Bourbon Cognac Cask Finish and Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee White Whiskey.
The Belle Meade Bourbon Cognac Cask Finish is a limited edition whiskey. The stock mashbill is 30% rye, and the whiskey is a blend of 6 to 9 year old bourbons, finished in Fine Champagne XO Cognac casks. It’s non-chill filtered and is bottled at 90.4 proof (45.2% ABV)
The label is of elegant design and builds an expectation of something classic in experience. The bourbon has a dark copper coloring in the glass, with golden highlights throughout. The legs are long and thin.
The nose is easily detected, and without fear of alcohol burn. It’s filled with notes of creme brûlée with a faint cinnamon covering layered over an oak base. I really loved this nose.
The mouthfeel is medium-bodied and soft. All of the action takes place at the back of the tongue and mouth. The flavoring is subtle to the point of being indistinguishable until the finish kicks in. That finish is long and very interesting. Because the flavor profile is so subtle, you believe the experience is over with apparently very little going on in the mouth. However, the finish then surprises you and comes on boldly filled with spice in repeated waves emphasizing how the experience is nowhere near over. This is where the baking spices make their appearance and linger for a long, satisfying time.
This is an interesting bourbon with the French Oak influence. I sipped it neat in my traditional Glencairn glass. I wouldn’t be surprised if a small amount of distilled water would open up the flavor profile.
Belle Meade Bourbon Cognac Cask Finish is offered at $74.99 for a 750ml.