Tonight a have a double shot for you, or perhaps a double barrel…double action? Double tap? Either firearm based pun? Reason for the pun, tonight I’m going at two Bulleits, their bourbon and rye. I suspect these products need no introduction, based equal parts on their stand out branding, their mid-range price, and their quality Bulleit has—over just 15 years—become a behind the bar staple. You probably recognize it, the bold molded glass stating alternately “Bulleit Bourbon: Frontier Whiskey,” or “Bulleit Rye: American Whiskey.” That bold, old west bottle, striped with a simple striped label stands out to even a whiskey novice. The story behind the Bulleit brand, so it comes from founder Tom Bulleit begins in about 1830 with his grandfather Augustus Bulleit, who brewed for about 30 years, until his death. On reviving the Bulleit whiskey tradition Tom switched over to a bourbon style whiskey going from Augustus’ 2/3rd rye, 1/3rd corn formula to about 2/3rd corn, 1/3rd rye. The final product is bottled at 90 proof. In its short 15 years Bulleit had been bought up twice, first by Seagram’s, second by liquor giant Diageo, with whom they’ve grown into a massive success and expanded their line to include tonight’s rye and the sadly out of my range Bulleit 10 year bourbon. The rye, by the way is a 95% rye, 5% barley mash produced alongside many other rye brands in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. That’s enough background, I’m thirsty.
First off I’m going to go to the bourbon, knowing from experience that the rye would heavily influence my palate. First entry into the nose is a rather powerful experience, full of vanilla, cinnamon and oak—with something in the back that reminds me of apple cider that you left in the fridge too long in the hope it would get a little hard. The first taste is rich and chewy with caramel, vanilla, smooth oak, with just a bit of smoke—leaving with that lovely rye cinnamon that carries through on the finish with just the right amount of 90 proof burn.
And now that my palate and my brain are fully lubricated, let’s get to the rye! First off, the smell—glory be, I love the smell of rye whiskey…not in the morning, I want to keep my job. But damn this smells fine the rye spice coming across full of cinnamon, brown sugar, cloves…quite frankly it smells like pie. Delicious, boozy pie. Certainly the nose on this doesn’t lie, with that rye cinnamon heavily in the forefront, but balanced off with a lovely sweetness that seems to be coming from a heath bar like combination of toffee and soft cocoa. The finish rounds out with something almost reminiscent of honeyed spearmint and a bit of dry oak. Overall this rye is very pleasing, and my favorite of the two. Also worth noting is that in a face-off between these contenders and last week’s Cleveland whiskey the Rye came out the clear winner—and Ian, Ben and I came out rather drunk.
While there are certainly many factors that have played into the rapid success of Bulleit bourbon in recent years, particularly given the explosion in the popularity of whiskey in general, it’s certain that it’s not hype making Bulleit popular. The reasonable price and consistent quality ensure that while you may come for the looks, you stay for the whole package—just like any love in life.