Bulleit Bourbon

So, I really do try not to be too hard on inexpensive, bottom-shelf whiskies. I recognize that many of them are intended for mixing into cocktails, or at least on ice – not for drinking neat with a focus on flavor. That being said, this blog is devoted to the discovery of (relatively) inexpensive ‘brown spirits’ worth imbibing neat. I feel that if I dismiss a dozen $20 whiskies as “Not Recommended” (whatever flak I may get in the comments) in order to find one $20 whisk(e)y that stands out and may find a place in my regular cabinet rotation, then I have done a good deed. Of course, I have a lot of work left to do: There are a dizzying array of brands and products available. So let’s get started with a Bourbon that I’ve been hearing good things about. Bulleit.

Bulleit (not ‘Bullet’ – it’s named after Augustus Bulleit, who created the first recipe in 1830) is owned by Diageo and distilled at the Kirin company’s plant in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Kirin’s Four Roses Bourbon brand is made at the same facility. (Note: According to bourbon expert Chuck Cowdery, this is probably no longer true.) Bulleit is characterized by a higher-than-usual percentage of rye (28% according to Wikipedia), and a maturation of around six years, which is long for an American whiskey. Bulleit also has a straight rye on the market.

Nose: High-fructose corn syrup. The alcohol fumes have a turpentine quality. Deep in there are some brighter notes, like fresh raspberry and cotton candy. A dash of water seems, paradoxically, to heighten the nose tickle – a first for me.

Palate: The attack is very warming – you can taste that extra proof. Once it settles in on the tongue, there is a nice oakiness, plenty of vanilla, and a continuation of those processed corn syrup notes. The body is medium, with a nice heft to it. Water does not improve.

Finish: Lots of oak tannins and a wave of vanilla. Pretty long. Fades out with the tannins turning a little bitter.

Tasty in its way, and (I would hazard) better than some cheaper bourbons. However, with those fake corn syrup flavors – almost reminiscent of aspartane or other non-sugar sweeteners – I can’t say I would ever be in the mood for it. This is unfortunate, as the longer aging and higher percentage of rye in the mashbill had sounded like a good combination for me (I like rye, and I’ve always thought American whiskey was underaged). Oh well – on to the next one!

A further note on my ratings: If I rate a whiskey like this – which is generally well-thought-of – as “Not Recommended”, I am not discouraging the purchase of this product. I am telling you that I do not recommend this whiskey for drinking neat. I imagine it would make a fabulous Manhattan.

Bulleit Bourbon
45% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $22 - $25
Acquired: (50 ml sample) Purchased.

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    • JWC – Funny you should mention that, I had a 50ml of Wild Turkey 101 last night and was very, very impressed. It’s the first American whiskey I’ve tried (outside of Evan Williams Single Barrel and Rittenhouse Rye 100) that I would buy again. Review upcoming. I’ll look out for the Weller 12, thanks.

    • I’m constantly recommending Wild Turkey 101 and people always have a doubtful look on their face. Unfortunately it’s now $25-$28 in my area.

  • WT 101 is definitely worthy of note. Nice spice, well rounded.

    In the high-but-reasonable end, Noah’s Mill is one I keep coming back to.

    And then there’s Pappy 20 but that’s a completely different story.

  • Love reading your reviews. Whether positive or negative, your tasting notes are so poetic and descriptive I feel like I can taste the whisk(e)y. I usually agree with your reviews, and while I agree with your notes on Bulleit, I came away with an entirely different overall impression. the heavy corn syrup and vanilla that you mention reminds me of cupcakes made from store bought white cake mix: a taste I really enjoy. Always interesting to see when the same flavors are awful for one person and amazing for another. Keep up the great reviews!

    • Thanks for the kind comments, Alex! I do try to remind people that tasting is extremely subjective, and that if you give a blind tasting to 10 people, you will get 10 different tasting notes! I do my best to relay both the flavors/aromas that I find when tasting a whisk(e)y, and also the value/quality tradeoff of the bottle. I dread recommending a bottle to someone and having them hate it, but that’s always the risk with a blog like this. It’s nice to have the reverse happen sometimes. Cheers!

  • Gotta disagree on this one. Bulleit (and it’s Rye) are two favorites in my circle. Love to read reviews, but I’m amazed how one post raves about a brand- Makers, for example, and another totally disses it. Different strokes, I guess.

  • I find bulliet to be good, sure i can get WT101 but still the robust rye is what makes this good to me. I dont get the HFCS in there i get burned molasses depending on the mood i am in.

  • This is bang for the buck. I have tried them all from Evan Williams to 23 year old Van Winkle. You got this wrong.

  • I generally agree with your comments and ratings, but I too have to disagree here. We like rye at my house, and drink the Bulleit Rye regularly. So we tried the Bulleit Bourbon earlier this year and liked that too (probably because it tastes of rye). I saw this review and had a glass of this bourbon that same night to check my response again, and my experience was not at all like the tastes you describe here.

    I wonder if there has been some improvement in the product in the two years since you published this review. I still prefer the Bulleit Rye, but this is a nice (and affordable) high-rye bourbon.

  • You need to review the Bulleit Rye. It’s heavenly for the money, and just good regardless of the money. I like it the same if not better than Rittenhouse Bonded.