Whisky Advocate

Review: Bulleit Rye Whiskey

May 3rd, 2011

Bulleit Rye Whiskey, 45%, $28

No age statement, but it includes 4 to 7 year old whiskeys. The mashbill is 95% rye — much higher than most standard rye whiskeys out there. It’s brisk, vibrant, and loaded with spice (crisp mint, warming cinnamon, cocoa, hint of anise). Fruit — ripe nectarine, apricot, golden raisin — drizzled with maple syrup. Dry oak rounds out the finish. Bold enough for cocktails. Mature enough to drink neat (or on the rocks).

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 85

18 Responses to “Review: Bulleit Rye Whiskey”

  1. Rick Duff says:

    I picked up a bottle of this not too long ago. Haven’t had much.. but found it nice. It’s a little lighter than I’d expect an 95% rye to be.. but very drinkable.
    Nice to see that crisp mint reference again. hmm.. maybe this would be a good whiskey for a mint julep for this weekend’s Derby?

  2. Red_Arremer says:

    The high-rye mashbill is a little surprising considering the profile of bulleit bourbon, which is particularly syrupy and cloying– I’m interested in this one, but will the spice be too much for the bulleit crowd?

  3. Mary says:

    I found it kind of wimpy but good. I would say it’s only mildly spicy. Be careful if you add water – it drowns really easy. I think in a mixed drink, it will disappear or have just a small presence. I think of this as a good starter rye. Worth the money but nothing really ground breaking.

  4. Scott says:

    Wish they’d hurry up and get this on the lists for Virginia state stores. But the gulf in apparent descriptive quality between yesterday’s Beam and today’s Bulleit seems much larger than the two-point difference in numeric scores would suggest. Hardly any adjectives beyond the most basic flavor descriptors on the Beam (“wood spices … some corn, caramel, and honey”) and a final sentence that seems to suggest that you didn’t enjoy the Beam at all. “I might like this bourbon with more age and less ‘devil,'” reads as though you don’t like the youth or “deviled” treatment, which would seem to be the two main characteristics of the spirit. Reads as if you’re saying, “I’d like this bourbon, if it were a different bourbon.”

    Whereas the Bulleit review is chockablock with adjectives denoting both variety and specificity (“crisp mint, warming cinnamon, … ripe nectarine, apricot, golden raisin … drizzled with maple syrup. Dry oak rounds”), and your final two sentences identify the spirit’s fundamental characteristics as virtues, rather than faults. If you didn’t include numerical scores, I’d have guess from the descriptive text that you’d rated the Beam about a 76, and the Bulleit about an 86.

    I don’t mean this as a complaint or a critique, despite how I’m sure it’s reading, but I’m curious: were there qualities to the Beam, say, a more subtle nose or better-than-expected finish or whatever, that informed the numerical score but didn’t find expression in the narrative review? Are there weaknesses to the Bulleit, say, a too-quick finish or a fiery mouthfeel or whatever, that informed the score but didn’t make it into the narrative review?

    • Texas says:

      I made the same comment about John’s words vs. numbers on the Beam thread. If I read the two reviews I sure don’t expect a difference of three points in the rating..

      Usually I am the troublemaker and odd man out I guess it isn’t just me this time.

      • John Hansell says:

        Only my last sentence on the Beam review was in a negative tone, whereas I wasn’t negative at all for the Bulleit. Thus the reason why the Bulleit got a higher rating.

        Did I give more descriptive flavor to the Bulleit? Yes, but brevity shouldn’t necessarily be considered a negative. Still, I have made a mental note of your comment and will keep it in mind for future reviews. Thanks.

        • Red_Arremer says:

          That note about brevity not necessarily being a negative– that’s something that’s easy to lose track of for people who like to explore and talk about whisky.

          In fact, I’ve noticed that you’re very negative reviews (lower than 80) are often among the longer ones. While you’ve written quite a few shortish reviews of whiskies in the low 90’s.

        • Scott says:

          Thanks. And like I said, not a complaint. Personally, more, and more specific, descriptions are usually a mark of quality in my own tasting. When a whisky disappoints, I’m more often left with fewer, broader thoughts. Honey, something floral, red fruit. Whereas the more I enjoy a whisky, the more and more specific my reactions. Orange-blossom honey, hints of lavender, cherry and plum. That sort of thing. To an extent, I’m sure this is just a lack of sophistication; when I like the whisky, I pay it more attention and explore the flavors and aromas with more care. When I don’t like the whisky as much, I let my more generalized first reactions stand without deeper consideration.

          So if there’s any issue here, it’s likely just that I was not sufficiently setting aside my own prejudices as a reader!

          • Red_Arremer says:

            Then again, Scott, I often find myself thinking the most about the challenging disappointing whiskies– Even as I’m enjoying them less.

        • Texas says:

          Thanks, John, and like Scott I wasn’t complaining either, just a bit surprised. Curious (curious suggesting not good) botanical note, youthfulness, and the comment about more age less devil seemed to spell a lower rating.

          Anyway I think it just goes to show that ratings are meaningless without great review notes, and you always write very good (and easy to understand notes). As soon as I read your Devil’s Cut review without seeing the rating I knew it was something I want to try.

        • The Bitter Fig says:

          So this got me thinking about word counts in tasting notes, so I went to a few sites I like to get a feel for it. Most of the reviews here clock in around 100 words. Serge Valentin at Whiskyfun has typically 150 words per whisky, and like with most of John’s reviews here, this is including the brief distillery/edition information provided. Sam Simmons’ at Dr. Whisky runs about 150 words for the Tasting Notes and Comments, separating the distillery comments or other bits of history. Davin de Kergommeaux at tends to have 250-300 word whoppers, and that’s even excluding the amazing and very extensive distillery and bottling information.

          I think I prefer the more pithy reviews to the word thickets when it comes to just the notes, but I also love the histories. With a whisky I haven’t tasted, there’s only so much you can learn from someone else’s notes. I’m most interested in the highlights and key scents and flavors, as well as the general impressions, but it’s possible to go a layer too deep in nuance. There are things one must experience personally to understand, and it just doesn’t translate too well. However, non-flavor information is still going to be accessible even if the particular whiskies are not, so bring on the background.

  5. Red_Arremer says:

    Worthwhile observations there, Scott

  6. Jason Pyle says:

    Good review John. Get any gin-like aromas and/or flavors akin to the double rye? Very different whiskeys for sure, but one thing that really stood out to me was gin botanicals. A lot of the LDI juice has demonstrated this of late, and I really enjoy that about them. It’s unique.

    For those of us that enjoy rye whiskey, another offering like Bulleit is quite welcomed. Rick, I bet this sucker would make a fine Mint Julep. I might give that try also this weekend.

  7. […] John Hansell reviews Bowmore 40 years old and rate it with 96. Just a bit expensive, $11.000. Shall we order only two so?. He also reviews Jim Beam Devil’s Cut and Bulleit Rye Whiskey. […]

  8. mark davis says:

    I have a bottle of bulliet rye. I have to say it’s very drinkable. it’s a real crowd pleaser the way bullier bourbon is. This is diagios higher end American whiskey brand and people really like it. I knuid of think of bulliet as the johnny walker of American whiskey. I’ve talked to a number of casual drinkers that really enjoy this and I brought it over to my poker night a couple weeks ago and the people who had some enjoyed it.

    Russle’s reserve rye is a similarly priced very mild, widely enjoyable rye. I think they are very similar, but my preference would be for the bulliet. I do have to say that i would probably buy redemption rye over bulliet because it’s ten bucks less and bulliet isn’t 10 bucks more refined. However I think both have a permanent place in my liquor cabinet where bulliet bourbon does not.

  9. Mary says:

    Jason Pyle: Hi Jason. I watched your review of the B. Rye while drinking it & thought – wow, we must have 2 completely different bottles. I got very little of the gin botanicals that you found. To me, it was more orange peel, spice, maraschino cherry & bitters. I’m a gin drinker so after you said that, I really tried to find them but they did not stand out to me. I enjoy your reviews & often agree so I found this experience very interesting because it just shows how different tasters find different scents/flavors & perhaps how much variation there can be in a bottling.

    • Jason Pyle says:

      Mary: Thanks Mary, I appreciate the feedback. Taste is certainly subjective and it’s always interesting to see what folks think about the same bottle. I certainly enjoyed this one for sure. And again, as someone that enjoys a good Rye, I love that it entered the market this year.

  10. Old Pete says:

    I bought a bottle of this rye because it was on sale cheaper than my favorite Bulliet Bourbon. What a pleasant surprise. I agree with all the positives in this review. It is even better than the
    bourbon. Only problem is typing this review with a happy buzz from two doubles straight. Don’t have any bitters or sweet vermouth to try a Manhatten but what the heck.

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