Review: Bulleit Rye Whiskey

Yes, I know – this is not a bourbon (despite what the backdrop in the above photo might imply). It’s a rye whiskey. The difference? A bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn but a rye whiskey must be at least 51% rye. So they’re mutually exclusive categories.

(Also, rye whiskey is permitted to have artificial color and flavoring, but this is a straight rye, so it does not.)

I like to include Bulleit Rye in my Bourbon 101 tasting because it’s barely outside of category and – at 95% rye grain – it really showcases the flavors that the rye grain contributes.

Wondering what ‘Frontier Whiskey’ is? If you find out, please let me know. I’ve been wondering about that, too … my expectations of something from the days of the American frontier is on the lower end of palatable. But this is quite the opposite (as evidenced by the level of the spirit in my bottle).

Production: 95% rye grain, 5% malted barrel; no age statement; distilled by MGP Ingredients, Inc. in Lawrenceburg, Indiana for Diageo; bottled at 90 proof.

Color: Medium golden amber.

Nose: Grains, caramel and vanilla, spices especially black pepper.

Palate: Sweet and spicy with strong black pepper, cinnamon and clove plus oak and a little fruit.

Finish: Sweet and fruity at first with candied orange, then spicy and woody with black pepper, cinnamon, clove and smoke.

Verdict: Too spicy for most casual drinkers but then rye whiskeys are usually consumed as cocktail bases. If you enjoy the spicy, though, it’s a great value rye whiskey.

One odd note about Bulleit Rye: most whiskeys change slowly and not to extremes when left with a lot of air space in the bottle. Bulleit Rye’s flavor drifts in a most peculiar way though. It’ll get minty and fruity and lose some of the strong spice character. At least, that’s been my experience.