Bulleit Bourbon Background
Bulleit Bourbon is a brand of Diageo and was introduced in 1999. It’s widely assumed to be entirely, but certainly at least in part, distilled at Four Roses. Bulleit Bourbon is then aged at Diageo’s Stitzel-Weller warehouses. The Bulleit brand includes Bulleit Bourbon, Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon, and Bulleit Rye. The source of Bulleit Bourbon has changed or will be changing shortly away from Four Roses. This deal goes back to when Seagrams sold off many of its brands, which included both Bulleit and Four Roses and the Four Roses Distillery to Diageo. Diageo later sold Four Roses to current owners Kirin.
Diageo is now building a $115 million distillery in Shelbyville, Kentucky and is expected to begin producing in 2016. It’s unclear if there will be a gap between this new production and the end of Four Roses sourcing, and if so, where it will come from. For now, however, we do know that current bottles have distillate from Four Roses.
Bulleit Bourbon doesn’t share the same recipe as any of Four Roses’ products. Four Roses has its 10 recipes and can create a unique product through blending. Bulleit Bourbon uses both of Four Roses’ 20% rye and 35% rye mashbills for a mash recipe of around 28% rye. Bulleit Bourbon doesn’t have an age statement, but is typically aged between 6-8 years.
Bulleit Bourbon was technically my first bottle of Bourbon. Years ago I went into the liquor store and asked for a quality middle of the road Bourbon to soak some oak cubes when making a Bourbon barrel stout. I remember taking a big swig of it and breathing fire. LOL. Times have changed.
Bulleit Bourbon is a pretty nice Bourbon and at a good price for a nice value. To me it seems a bit flat and some roughness around the edges, but it has a nice rye profile and does present a nice barrel character. Given the sub-$30 price for a good spicy rye Bourbon, it’s very nice option.
Comparatively this is like Four Roses Small Batch. Similar recipe split between Four Roses two high rye mashes, although it’s unknown which yeasts are used. It’s also bottled at the same 90-proof. Largely the difference appears to be perhaps the yeast and barrel storage. Bulleit Bourbon is stored at Stitzel-Weller warehouses in Louisville as noted, while Four Roses has a different style single story warehouses about an 45 minutes further south in Coxs Creek. I really like Four Roses Small Batch, and I would say Bulleit Bourbon is right in there. To use their tagline, I find Four Roses Small batch a bit more mellow with a little more character. Overall I prefer it, but Bulleit is still a nice pour for a few dollars less.
Bourbon nerds will likely object to Diageo and Tom Bulleit’s fishy back story. A lot of Bourbon brand lore is part myth and part truth, so I’m not going to get too worked up over it. At least not so much to shun a perfectly fine value. Still there’s plenty of fine Bourbon out there and people are free to vote with their wallets on both the Bourbon and the people behind the bottle. Personally, I’m not that concerned.
I’d have no problem buying another bottle of Bulleit Bourbon. In fact this is my third, including the first bottle back in the day. I’d happily spend a couple extra bucks for Four Roses Small Batch, however, their prices are going up, so that may change the equation a bit in the future.