Bulleit Rye

Bulleit (not ‘Bullet’ – it’s named after Augustus Bulleit, a historical figure that Diageo may or may not have embellished, as there is little to no historical information about him, although his descendant Tom Bulleit now oversees the company) is owned by scotch giant Diageo and distilled at the MGP of Indiana distillery, where nearly every other rye on the market today is also distilled, including Templeton Rye, Redemption Rye, Willet Rye (until they start releasing whisky from their new KBD plant), High West (at least they blend it skillfully), George Dickel Rye (also owned by Diageo), Angel’s Envy Rye (at least they finish it in rum barrels), and a host of other small-time brands that have not come clean about their origins. Bulleit uses MGP’s 95% rye (and 5% malted barley, used for its enzymes to jumpstart fermentation) recipe. Bulleit Rye is purportedly aged between 4 and 7 years and is bottled by Diageo at 45% ABV.

Diageo also sells a bourbon under the Bulleit brand, which previously was distilled at the Four Roses distillery but is likely now sourced from elsewhere.

Nose: Pungent! Caraway seed, menthol, eucalyptus, cinnamon (stale), black pepper (fresh), and a hint of cherry.

Palate: Thin body. A little fiery, and rough around the edges in a “frontier” style. Cinnamon red-hots, pine sap, cinnamon toast (without the raisins). Somewhat dry (not particularly sweet). A little bit vegetal or grassy.

Finish: Medium-long. Some sweetness emerges in the form of cinnamon saltwater taffy. The pine/eucalyptus is muted now, and the finish is primarily oaky, with a slight bitterness. A ghost of apple skins completes the finish.

With Water: Several drops of water wake up a nice citrus note (like orange bitters or grapefruit) in the aroma, without compromising the integrity of the flavor. I recommend a few drops of water. Also, this bodes well for Bulleit’s ability to stand up to ice or mixers.

Overall: A very respectable rye. I like finding those piney/eucalyptus notes in younger ryes, and Bulleit has those in addition to some of the spicy/oaky flavors present in older ryes. I still prefer Rittenhouse 100 for its elegance and polish, but for a rough-and-ready robust rye that will shine through in mixed drinks but can also stand up to a glass of ice (or a glass of nothing else) it’s hard to beat Bulleit. It may be distilled by MGP, but Bulleit is doing something right, because this is quite good for the ~$25 price tag.

Bulleit Rye
45% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $23 - $30
Acquired: (750 ml bottle) Purchased at BevMo, San Jose, CA, $23.

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  • On my second bottle as CVS Drug had it for 19.99. Can’t beat at the price. Perhaps not as refined as others, but for a considerably lower price. I have only had it on the rocks and easy to drink.

    • Well, a year later and I must say that I revisited this and keep a bottle available for a once a week tipple with a drop of water. Also makes a mean Manhattan.

  • A lot of reviews of rye whiskey make note of the fact that the raw distillate comes from MGP in Indiana. Somehow this is a negative, implying it is a cheat of some kind. Seems to me what really matters with a rye whiskey is what happens in the barrel and after. If a person drank the raw clear stuff that comes out of MGP he/she would say it was throat-burning nastiness. Still, each expression of the finished product is very different because almost everything that makes a rye whiskey what it is happens after it leaves the factory in Indiana. That’s why the guy who writes this review can prefer one type of MGP rye over another. It’s a false narrative designed to make the reviewer seem aware and clever. Soon, all of the online reviews will, after their disclaimer about getting free booze, say that all of the water in a mashbill comes from the same source: rain. And that’s bad somehow.

    • First off, I bought this bottle, it was not free. Second, I mention the MGP origin of this because it is a fact about the whiskey that many people would like to know, not for any reason relating to my ego. Third, what most people (myself included) object to about sourced whisky is not the quality of the distillate (read my Angel’s Envy reviews if you doubt me on my opinion of MGP quality) but rather the lack of transparency and the fact that many (not all) producers of bottled MGP product try to come off as distillers who made the stuff root to branch when they did not.

  • I recently got a bottle of this and I didn’t like it at all, I would describe it as a mouthful of grass. I guess I’ll have to drink it until I like it.

  • Regarding the pronunciation, Tom Bulleit, who owns the brand and whose whatever great grandfather he named his bourbon for, pronounces his name “Bullet.” Correct bartenders and whiskey enthusiast at your own peril. That said, this rye whiskey is wonderful.