Review: Bulleit Straight Rye Whiskey / by Jason Hambrey

Bulleit Rye 2.jpg
Virgin Charred Oak
95% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Distiller MGP (Lawrenceburg, Indiana)

This whisky, along with so many others (Templeton Rye, George Dickel Rye, Redemption Rye, Smooth Ambler, High West Rye, along with others) is not produced at the distillery of the brand name (if indeed, the brand even has a distillery) but rather at Midwest Grain Products (MGP) in Indiana where the whiskies are mashed, distilled, and aged. Their classic rye mash bill uses a recipe of 95% rye, which is very high for American straight ryes – for example, Wild Turkey Rye and Rittenhouse Rye are only 51% rye. MGP was originally owned by Seagram’s, a Canadian company, at a time when they also owned Four Roses and the yeast used is the same as the “V” yeast of four roses (as used in their Single Barrel bottling, among others). High rye whiskies are more common in Canada, but they are (unfortunately) not often seen as their own bottlings because they are usually used to flavour blends, as spices flavour food. The whisky doesn’t have an age statement, but is likely relatively young (perhaps 4-6 years).

Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Oak, and the grain comes through beautifully with a bit of mint as well with a bit of a menthol feel to it. This is a solid, big nose with a nice balance between the oak and the herbal rye. Apricot jam, pine needles, a corn-type butteryness (though there’s no corn here!), vanilla, root beer also come through, and some earthiness that is almost moldy (though it sounds so – this is not bad).

Taste: Lots of rye here, with a good menthol and herbal kick as well. The mouthfeel is fantastic. Oak, dark, a good bit of vanilla, and a bit earthy. Very solid.

Finish: Dry, slightly spicy – long, and bold. A bit tingly too. It carries on the same theme – oak, spice – like clove and caraway – and herbal rye. A bit tannic too, and this is not balanced by quite enough oak flavour.

This is very nice – it feels very firm and solid the whole way through, with a nice mix of flavours. A classic straight rye really, but it lacks some of the complexity and elegance that I wish for. However, it’s consistent all the way through and is a beauty to sip and mix. I like it a good bit more than their bourbon.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High, at $39.

Review (2020)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code:  

  • Bottling Date: ~2019

I lead a best “budget” American whiskeys last fall, and this shone, as expected- and it reminded me of how much I like the stuff. It smells so distinctly like MGP rye, which I love. The nose is full of such spices – green cardamom, black cardamom, cloves, oak, brown sugar, and even a bit of spinach! Beautiful stuff – I adore the complexity. There’s all sorts of stuff – cacao, menthol, boiled tomatoes, pears – and, it all works.

This is appealing to me more than a few years ago – not sure if that’s because it’s better, or my preferences have shifted slightly. It might even be a touch younger – the youthfulness here is good, but different than last time.

Highly Recommended (49% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high, at $41.