Bulleit Bourbon and Rye Whiskeys

Bulleit Frontier Whiskey is the brainchild of Vietnam veteran and "recovering attorney" Thomas E. Bulleit, Jr. In 1987, after spending fifteen years practicing law, Tom Bulleit left it all behind to create the Bulleit Distilling Company, a non-distiller producer that just keeps on rolling.  

Tom's great-great grandfather Augustus Bulleit was a miller, farmer, naturalized American citizen, and distiller who apparently made a fine rye whiskey throughout the 1840's-50's. Augustus Bulleit died in 1860 while traveling on a flatboat to sell his products in New Orleans. His death has remained a mystery.

Drawing inspiration (and a great marketing scheme) from Augustus' story, Tom Bulleit has been sourcing high-rye whiskey from Four Roses and MGPI and selling lots of it under his family name. There has been plenty of controversy surrounding whether Four Roses has been the sole source of the bourbon, and Diageo has been elusive, but there is no doubt that the rye whiskey comes from MGPI (95% rye mash bill).

Bulleit Bourbon and Bulleit Rye have a few things going for them, in our opinion. 1) They are affordable (the rye is available for as low as $20 where I live); 2) They are widely available (almost a million cases sold annually); 3) They come in beautiful, unique bottles (with the cool raised lettering); and 4) They are both really complex/tasty- for sipping or mixing. Diageo finally plans to open a whiskey distillery of its own next year, in Shelbyville, KY, and many people believe it will be the sole source of future batches of Bulleit products.

While I prefer wheated bourbons and "barely legal" rye whiskeys, Bulleit is my spicy, hot change-up whiskey. Tom sold 600,000 cases of the bourbon last year and the rye burst on to the scene in 2011 winning Gold Medals in San Francisco and a 96 from Jim Murray (Whisky Bible). Practicing law is fun and all, but managing a successful whiskey business sounds much better, right?  

Bulleit Bourbon

Bulleit Distilling Company/Four Roses (and perhaps other major distilleries)
90 proof
$23 at ABC in Richmond, VA

Color: Light amber.

Nose:  The nose is well balanced. Orange peel, apple juice, caramel and vanilla linger just above charred oak, tobacco and rye spice.  

Tasting notes:  Bulleit's smooth entrance transitions into sweet maple sugar candy and finishes with a kick of black pepper, leather, and tobacco. 

Overall: B+.  Bulleit Bourbon is a staple at every bar (and in most homes, I presume). It drinks slightly stronger than 90 proof but is smooth enough to sip neat. It does well in an Old Fashioned too. The canteen shaped bottle looks great on a shelf.

Peer Reviews:


Bulleit "95" Rye Whiskey

Bulleit Distilling Company/MGPI
90 proof
$20 at Class VI in Fort Jackson, SC

Color: Bright, light orange. 

Nose: The nose is fresh and reminiscent of many gins- I get menthol, pine tar, and lemon zest with some sweet caramel and honey to balance it out.

Tasting notes:  Pepper and rye spice lead the way. The lemon character hangs around as do the gin-like botanical notes evident in the nose. The oak influence is also there through a long, dry finish.

Overall: B+.  While the 95% rye can be sipped neat, I prefer it in a Manhattan. However you drink it, at $20-$25, it's great value.

Peer Reviews: