Unlike most of the other bourbons that can trace their origins to hundreds of years, the Bulleit Bourbon is fairly new. The modern brand was established in 1999, although its founder has claimed origins to the original Bulleit Bourbon made in 1830 by Augustus Bulleit. The bottles sold today contain a much different whiskey.
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In 2019, Tom Bulleit, founder of Bulleit Bourbon, stepped away from the brand after his daughter Hollis Bulleit accused him of sexual abuse and homophobia. While Tom Bulleit has continued to deny her allegations, he agreed to stop representing the brand publicly, after Diageo asked him to do so in order to protect the Bulleit brand.
Originally made mostly with rye grain, the whiskey wouldn’t technically have been called a bourbon by today’s standard. But despite now being made mostly with corn, the formula still calls for a larger amount of rye than most popular bourbons today.
Bulleit ages their whiskey for 6 years before bottling, just a tad bit longer than the traditional 4-year aging process. This lengthier aging adds more concentrated flavors of oak and char, while also rounding out any sharpness in the after taste.
Like most distilleries, Bulleit produces a bourbon as well as a rye whiskey. They also offer a ten-year-old bourbon, a twelve-year-old rye, a barrel strength bourbon, and a blender’s select.
The bourbon is bottled at 45% ABV, so just a little stronger than most liquors, but not too high for a bourbon. The rye is also the same strength, the key difference being that the bourbon is made with 68% corn, 28% rye, and 4% malted barley, while the rye is 95:5 rye to malted barley. Either is great for smooth tasting easy to handle shots, or to make classic booze heavy cocktails like a Boulevardier or Diamondback.
The 10 year Bourbon is 91.2 proof (45.6%abv), the 12 years Rye is 92 proof (46%abv), the Barrel Strength Bourbon is 119 proof (59.5%abv), and the Blender’s Select is 100 proof (50%abv).
Barrel (or Cask) strength means that the whiskey isn’t watered down to control alcohol content, as is done to all other whiskeys not designated as such. The lack of dilution definitely leaves the strongest flavors intact and makes for a very boozy and rich whiskey. This is a bottle probably best for the house, because after a few too many of these while out, it might be hard getting home later.
The Blender’s select is a special blend chosen by blender Eboni Major, the distillates chose are aged a minimum of nine years, and this offers a unique flavor, still akin to their regular bourbon. Titles like “Blender’s Select” or “Distiller’s Choice” aren’t regulated terms by any means, but imply that the most senior and well-experienced members of the distilleries are directly involved in creating a limitedly available, higher quality, and therefore slightly more expensive product. For things like this, it’s not a bad idea to spend a few more bucks than usual for a glass of whiskey at a bar or restaurant to see if buying the whole bottle is worth it for home. Almost every major whiskey producer in America releases some type of similarly titled product at one point or another.
Bulleit Whiskey Pricing
Bulleit Rye and Bourbon are available in most sizes from 50ml-1.75L, while the specialty bottles are limited to 750ml. The Rye and Bourbon are about $33 on the shelf and are usually expected to be about $8-$12 at an average priced bar, but being that the brand has had a huge rise in popularity in the past ten years, it can be priced as the highest shelf in some places due to brand recognition. Don’t be surprised if that super posh nightclub downtown you waited in line for 2 hours to get into just charged you twenty bucks for a Bulleit neat.
Expect to pay around $45-$55 a bottle for the specialty varieties, which usually vary in availability, but don’t be afraid to ask your regular store to pick up a case if you know that you’re going to buy at least a bottle or two.
|Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey||750ml||From $31.99|
|Bulleit Rye||750ml||From $30.99|
|Bulleit Bourbon 10 Year||750ml||From $47.99|
|Bulleit Barrel Strength Bourbon||750ml||From $54.99|
|Bulleit Blenders Select||750ml||From $49.99|
Bulleit Mixed Drinks
As with most bourbons, you can usually swap between different brands when making mixed drinks. Unless you have a favorite or are a bourbon connoisseur, you probably wouldn’t notice much difference between different bourbons in mixed drinks.
- 2.0oz Rye or Bourbon
- 1.0oz Campari
- 1.0oz Sweet Vermouth*
- Lemon Twist
In a mixing glass or tin, add all liquors then fill with ice, stir for about 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add a lemon twist for garnish.
*a note on sweet vermouth: sometimes buying a 375ml bottle that is pricier is worth it; once you open the bottle, store it in the fridge.
- 1.5oz Rye
- .75oz Applejack Brandy
- .75 Green Chartreuse
- 1 Luxardo Maraschino Cherry
Combine all ingredients in a mixing tin or glass, fill with ice and stir for about 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled glass and drop a nice cherry in for garnish.
Bulleit Alternatives In The Price Range
Being that Bulleit’s flagship Bourbon is abnormally high in the amount of rye grain used in the mash, it does stand out as unique in the world of whiskey, however, it is not the only one. Old Grand Dad, Four Roses, and Basil Hayden’s are all high rye content bourbons.
The Old Grand Dad is the cheapest of the three, however is not very popular in bars so your best bet is to snag a bottle with the orange label for about 17 bucks at your local liquor store. Four Roses is also on the more affordable size, but just for their entry-level “Yellow Label” bourbon, which will set you back about 20 dollars. They also have small batch and single barrel versions of their bourbon that are definitely worth a try if you’re into the higher rye content whiskeys and are willing to step into the 30 and 40 dollar range for a 750ml, which is only a little pricier than Bulleit. Basil Hayden’s is a small batch bourbon produced by Jim Beam. It sits at around the 35 dollar range for a 750ml and is an extremely popular bottle for bars and restaurants to carry.
As far as Bulleit Rye is concerned, their proprietary mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley is hardly imitated. For around $60 you can have a try of a newer American distillery by the name of Rabbit Hole. Their rye also uses the 95:5 ratio, however, although they are rising in popularity and gaining notoriety, it is still a difficult bottle to find.
Some more popular rye’s that have high rye content in their mash are Woodford Reserve Rye, Old Forester Straight Rye, and believe it or not Jack Daniels Rye whiskey. None of them are as high as 95% rye, however, if you really enjoy Bulleit Rye then these are worth giving a shot as they are along the same lines, but different in their own ways, and are all at the same price point as Bulleit if not a little bit cheaper.