Bulleit Bourbon Review

Bulleit Bourbon Review

Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey has been something of a darling in the bourbon industry over the last few years. It’s cheap, it’s flavorful and it’s as versatile as a whiskey can be making it a favorite of whiskey drinkers and bartenders alike. One of the things that sets Bulleit apart from other bourbons is it’s very high rye content in the mash bill which gives it a spicy kick that balances nicely with the sweet bourbon notes.

The brand was briefly owned by Seagrams who then sold it to the current owner Diageo. Bulleit Bourbon was originally it a rye whiskey made with 2/3 rye and 1/3 corn (even though it was marketed as a bourbon) created by Augustus Bulleit and was produced from 1830 – 1860 when he died. The modern version is the the brain child of Tom Bulleit who is the great-great-grandson of Augustus Bulleit and to make it a true bourbon, which must be at least 51% corn, he’s adjusted the mash bill to 68% corn, 28% rye and 4% malted barley. Today it’s marketed as being a product of Bulleit Distilling, but there isn’t a Bulleit distillery. It’s actually made in the Four Roses distillery who is also well known for their high rye bourbons.

When it comes to value for money it’s hard to beat Bulleit and overall I think it’s a fine bourbon filled with great aromas and flavors. It’s good neat, holds up on the rocks and gives a spicy rye kick to any bourbon based cocktails you make with it making it a great bourbon for bartenders and in-home drinkers alike. It’s very approachable and my only criticism is that about 1/2 way through a second glass it gets a little boring. It’s not something I can drink all day while having a game day with my friends (I’m also a board game nerd), at a dinner party or other event and always find myself looking for something to change it up after the first or second serving.

If you’ve tried this versatile bourbon feel free to add your own notes to the comments below.

Bulleit Bourbon Review

ABV: 45%
Price: $22
Mash: 68% corn, 28% rye, 4% malted barley
Distiller: Bulleit Distilling / Four Roses distillery

EYE
Medium caramel

NOSE
Caramel, vanilla and citrus are the first aromas out of the bottle. Following that are some great notes of smoky char, oak, strawberry shortcake and a mild astringency that I usually find with high rye bourbons.

TASTE
Caramel, oak, and vanilla start things out. This is one of the more woody bourbons I’ve had and it’s rather nice actually. Accompanying these main four is a very robust spice filled with paprika, pepper, and cinnamon. There’s some orange zest, light crisp fruit and cherries hanging out in there as well.

FEEL
Smooth, easy and warming but a little dry. Dusty would be the right comparison.

FINISH
That same slightly dry / dusty character follows through on the long woody finish with some caramel and citrus hitching a ride. Very consistent aftertaste as it fades on a long finish.

SCORE: 88/100

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Bulleit Bourbon: Last Glass Update (09-28-14)
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This one has stayed pretty much the same during the whole bottle. The rye and caramel have moved up on the nose, palate and finish and become more assertive, especially the rye. When the bottle was first opened the rye spice was not as prominent with the sweet notes riding a bit higher. As it’s been open for the last 8 months the whiskey has opened up a bit more and there was a bit more depth and richness that started to come through. Not enough to give it another point, but enough to move it from barely being an 88 to being a hair from becoming an 89.

As I mentioned above, the juice in this bottle is Four roses, but that deal has been canceled earlier and we don’t know who the new supplier is/will be. This bottle was definitely pre cut-off, but this is also one of my wife’s favorite bourbons so we buy it regularly and there’s not much difference between the two so I’m assuming they’re still pumping out the stock they had left from what they already bought from Four Roses.

It’s going to be interesting to find out who they found to replace it and what it tastes like. It’s obviously going to be a high rye bourbon to retain the flavor and character it has now. Likely it will be MGP until Diageo finally starts distilling it themselves, but that’s going to be a while. Even though they broke ground on the Bulleit Distillery (called the Bulleit Distilling Co.) on August 21, 2014 but it won’t be operational until 2016 and then the bourbon has to age for at least 4 years to retain their NAS Straight designation so we won’t be seeing Diageo produced Bulleit until 2020 at the earliest and their popular Bulleit 10 won’t be available until 2026 at the earliest. It’s going to be a long and interesting journey for this bourbon and you can be sure it’ll be covered here.

 

Josh Peters
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Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters
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47 Responses to Bulleit Bourbon Review

  1. Bought this on a work trip. I travel often and try to bring back something I haven’t tried before. It’s not one I can keep going back to. I think what you said was spot on about it being somewhat boring. For the price I think it is def. worth keeping a bottle around the old medicine cabinet.

    • I’m really curious to see what it’s going to taste like / who they will source their whiskey from once all their Four Roses barrels run out, which should be pretty soon since the cancelled their contract with them earlier this year.

  2. This is the only brand of bourbon that doesnt give my ANY headaches. From your research do you have any ideas why? Do they make it differently than others? Thanks!!!

    • Hey Isaiah,

      So Bulleit has been made by Four Roses for quite a while, but that deal ended earlier this year. My sources tell me it’s going to becoming from either Jim Beam or Heaven Hill soon because the Four Roses bac stock is almost out. So if this bourbon doesn’t give you headaches I’d just switch to Four Roses since that’s what it has been until now.

      As for what’s different, there’s a couple of things. They use their own proprietary strains of yeast. Some distillers use off-the-shelf packaged / brewer’s yeast. They also use a specific strain of German rye that no one else really uses. So there are 2 factors there that are significantly different than some. There’s also proprietary distillation processes in place, but I can’t really speak to those, but they can affect the amount of congeners (impurities) in the whiskey.

      Long story short. If Bulleit doesn’t give you headaches then switch to Four Roses because that’s what it has been, but isn’t going to be any more very very soon.

      Hope that helps. Cheers!

    • It’s some good stuff. I picked it up at Trader Joe’s here in Los Angeles for $22 when I did the review a year ago. I haven’t checked on the price recently at TJ’s though so it could be more now. Though I think I saw it at Bevmo recently for about $25.

  3. It was my understanding that Bulleit sourced their juice from Four Roses and then aged it themselves. Even with Four Roses cutting them off/ Bulleit moving distillers, shouldn’t the Bulleit found on shelves for the next 3 or 4 years be Roses juice?

    • Not likely. Their sales do nothing but grow and so their stocks would be depleting more and more quickly. Also if that were the case then the juice would be aging and you’d be getting older and older bourbon in every batch making it a better and better deal with each year. I’ve talked to some folks in the industry, and one anonymous source close to Bulleit project who all say the same thing. The Four Roses juice could run out by mid this year, end of this year at the latest. Which is why they’ve been aggressively sourcing to backfill the stock. Those same sources seem to think it’s Jim Beam who’s supplying the new stock and if that’s true then it’ll be Old Grand-Dad that’s going into the bottle since that’s what JB’s high rye mashbill is. Which also makes sense why they would increase the price of OGD by 25% suddenly. A higher price typically means a slightly lower demand and that could help them ease off of reserved stocks a little bit. But who knows, only time will tell for sure.

  4. This is a very nice whiskey. Not a favorite, but still nice. I can taste the higher rye content. I like the spiciness. It also has a fruity taste without being too sweet. I enjoy the finish more than the first (a bit dry) taste.
    I agree, it’s just not real exciting.
    Always enjoy trying something new and thanks for another dead-on review!

    • Hang on…
      I may have been a bit quick to judge. I like this more than I first realized. The finish is so pleasant, it leaves me wanting just one more drink. I’m glad it availability was a full liter. I’ll enjoy it and I won’t mind keeping Bulleit on my whiskey shelf.

      • Of the MGP whiskies out there I prefer the Dickel Rye myself, but BUlleit isn’t terrible by any stretch. I have a freshly opened bottle on my shelf next to the Dickel if that tells you anything. Cheers!

  5. Based on your review, I tried some. Very nice. I like the spiciness – it stands up to an ice cube or two pretty well. It has the additional advantages of being inexpensive and reasonably easy to find. (I live in a state with state run liquor stores; selection is sometimes a problem).

  6. I love this Bulleit Bourbon! As you’ve mentioned in some of your other posts, I wish I could drink this without getting drunk. On that note, I’m a novice when it comes to whiskey and I’m finding I like bourbon better. What would you say is in your opinion the best value out there? Something that you’d grade a high 88/89 or in the 90’s that my wallet will love as well.

    • Hey Adam,

      Give Knob Creek, Wild Turkey 101, Four Roses Yellow, Maker’s Mark, Buffalo Trace, Evan Williams BiB and / or Henry McKenna BiB a try. All are reasonably priced and quite tasty.

      Cheers!

  7. I was given a bottle of 10 year old Bulleit. I am mostly a Scotch and Irish whiskey drinker so I approached this with some skepticism. I found the 10 year old Bulleit delicious neat and on the rocks. I am now a convert. I found vanilla the predominant flavor.

  8. A little disappointed. Right now I have Blantons, RR 10, Woodford Reserve, Eagle Rare, George Dickel Rye and #8, and 4 roses yellow. This is my only bottle I am struggling to drink neat. Maybe I got a bad bottle but it’s extremely harsh and only is tamed by an ice cube.

    • Lol. I’m having the same issue. I usually prefer my whiskey strait. I even drink even williams black neat but I just can’t put this one away. Ice and water did cut it either.

  9. just tried this on a friends advice and was pleasantly surprised. I an not a whiskey snob by any stretch, but I like this and like the price

  10. It is what Stallone drank in “Bullet to the head” movie. The barmaid said she never heard of it and his partner says, “Your not alone it’s some crap that nobody has ever heard of”. So Stallone would bring his own bottle to the bar.
    Too funny check it out.

  11. Can you share with us what you know about the switch from 4Roses to Jim Beam as supplier and when that change should hit shelves?

    • Hey Ben,

      It already has. I believe it’s being supplied by Jim Beam right now and is really just OGD. I was at the bar a couple months ago with some friends and someone ordered me a bourbon and when it arrived after my first sniff I thought “Oh, they brought me Jim Beam”. After my first sip I thought “Oh it’s a bit spicier, must be OGD”. Come to find out it was Bulleit.

      I had an unopened, recently purchased, Bulleit at home and the next day I A-B’d it next to some OGD 80 & BiB and they were nearly identical. This is likely why the OGD 1.75 handles have disappeared.

      • Thanks…I bought some 50mls of Bulleit a couple weeks ago and though it had been a while since I’d had Bulleit, it was different than I remembered. That probably ‘splains it.

    • Taste alone man. They won’t release what batch the source changed at. Though it should be fairly distinct, I tried a glass of it not knowing what it was and thought it was Beam. When they told me it was Bulleit I had a hard time believing it till I came home and opened a new bottle I had on the shelf. It’s all Beam now.

  12. Okay, I have a question. When you say this is made in the Four Roses Distillery, does that mean it is the same whiskey as Four Roses? Or, does Bulleit have their own distinct recipe? I picked up a 375 to give it a try. Either way I’ll be okay since I’m a big Four Roses fan like you.

  13. Okay, I have a question. When you say this is made in the Four Roses Distillery or Jim Beam distillery does that mean it is the same whiskey as Four Roses or OGD? Or, does Bulleit have their own distinct recipe? I picked up a 375 to give it a try. Either way I’ll be okay since I’m a big Four Roses fan like you.

    • It used to be made at Four Roses (was one of the regular four roses recipes), but that’s been over for a few years. I think it’s now made by Jim Beam and is really just Old Grand-Dad. It would also explain why they’re getting rid of the 1.75L OGD and OGD 114 whiskeys. They need the stock to supply Bulleit.

  14. I’d love to see you re-review the “new” Bulleit distilled by Jim Beam. Since you said it tastes identical to OGD 80 or OGD BiB I’m assuming your score for Bulleit would be signficantly lower than it is now. Looking at your ODG reviews, you give the OGD BiB (100 proof) an 84 and the OGD 80 proof a 76, mentioning that the OGD tastes better as you increase the alcohol content. Would in be safe to say you think the new Bulleit basically tastes like OGD BiB mixed 50/50 with OGD 80 proof (with a review score around 80 or so), or is there more to it than that?

  15. So when this was produced at four roses does that mean it was a blend of four roses two mash bills so it met the specification of the Bulleit mash bill? And if so how come Bulleit still uses the same mashbill in its marketing and not the OGD mash bill which has less Rye content?

    • Yes they had a custom setup at Four Roses. If they changed the marketing they’d have to admit it’s no longer Four Roses which they don’t want to do. A lot of that stuff doesn’t get changed these days till a law suite appears unfortunately. It’s also possible for it to be a mix of two or more distilleries within Kentucky, but if it is then I’d say it’s mostly OGD from the smell and taste.

      • Interesting thanks Josh! It’s unfortunate that disterleries have made the calculation that they can profit more through deceptive advertising than they stand to loose from a lawsuit.

  16. Hey Josh, thank you for review. I am sure that I will pass on this because of “citrusish” in taste. I hate it in 4 Roses. When I take shot next few days my mouth is full of citrus (their barell and batch don’t have it and I love them). Could you explain why they have this taste (high corn, high rye or else) and which other budget-mid price bourbons have it? I am planning to taste EW black, turkey 101, M. Mark. But if they have this taste too, please warn me and I will pas on them.

  17. I’ve decided to try to enjoy Bourbons, so I went to liquor store to find Buffalo Trace after some research about beginner Bourbons. They had nothing smaller than a.750 so I passed, but they had a .375 of bulleitt. Counter guy suggested it was good for beginners. Bought that. Haven’t tried yet, but what would you suggest? Want something very drinkable without burn or overly strong aftertaste. Thanks!

  18. This evening I had an opportunity to try Bulleit, Frontier Whiskey.
    Everywhere I go, I see Bulleit or Bulleit Rye, and I have not pulled the trigger yet.
    After reading your review, I was even more intrigued, so I got a small fry at the store to try it out.
    Smelled very sweet on the nose after the pour. Vanilla and cotton candy with the char was enticing and made me look forward to the first sip. Impressive. I dig it.
    The first taste was the sweet vanilla and caramel, but then a little spice kicked in which was not too hot but blended into the finish really well.
    I did not taste the dustiness on the finish, but what I did taste was some sweet fruit and dark chocolate.
    Overall, I thought it was a mighty fine sip. Will now make me stop and haggle with my brain when I am trying to talk myself into trying something new. Well, most of them are new to me! Again, thanks to your review, and descriptive details, I am trying to pick up the different flavors that present themselves to me on my palate for each new bourbon I experience.
    I continue to dig the journey that bourbon is leading me on.

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