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Bulleit 95 Rye Whiskey Review


Bulleit 95 Rye Whiskey, 45% abv (90 Proof), $25

Bulleit 95 Rye is the latest product from Bulleit Distilling Co. Owned by Diageo, Bulleit doesn’t technically distill its Bourbon or their new Rye. They contract with other distilleries to produce both of these whiskeys (the bourbon is made at Four Roses). The new 95 Rye gets its name from the 95% rye grain mash bill from Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI). Originally meant to be used as a blending whiskey, a number of bottlers have begun contracting or purchasing “juice” from LDI to independently bottle. This is the latest to do so, and it’s one of the best.

Color: Deep Golden

Nose: Pungent aroma of gin botanicals, pine needles, fresh lemon zest and honey, ground cinnamon, clove. Bit of mint in the background

Palate: The gin botanicals never leave for long, are spiked with white pepper, hot cinnamon, chili, and wrapped around a moderately sweet core of vanilla infused honey and burned sugar.

Finish: Dry, peppery spice, juniper, and fresh clean oak. A wave of warmth and cinnamon spice remains.

Overall: Bulleit 95 Rye is a welcomed addition to the Rye Whiskey world. Like much of the LDI whiskeys out there, it’s distinct, well made, and delivers great rye flavor. It could do well with a touch more sweetness and weight, but it keeps you coming back for more with an array of high notes and spicy flavors. Factor in the $25 price tag and there’s a lot of value here. This rye sips perfectly well on its own and will shine in cocktails where the whiskey is the star.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.7 (Very Good/Excellent)

43 Comments

  1. Tom Ufer says:

    I love a good rye. Normally, I reach for a bottle of Sazerac Rye for cocktails. I don’t care for Bulleit’s Bourbon but I will give this new Rye a shot.

  2. Tom, I really enjoyed it. It’s good stuff. I do enjoy Sazerac also – they are different. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Robo says:

    I really struggle with some of these LDI contracted whiskeys. I feel like it’s almost cheating. I like what High West is doing as a Blender/Independent bottler but, I have to say I was a little disappointed to learn that Bulleit’s products weren’t self distilled.

    It’s probably just something I need to get over but, I just feel like anyone could just ask LDI to make a spirit, age it, and then put your own label on it. Am I crazy? Does anyone else feel this way?

  4. Drew W. says:

    Jason, this might be a good opportunity to just explain what the relationship is between bottlers and LDI. I not even sure I know exactly how it all works. As, I’ve mentioned before I have been trying a lot of another LDI product, as I am from Indiana, called W.H. Harrison Indiana Straight Bourbon Whiskey, which I would believe would have a similar relationship with LDI that Bulleit would have. Do the people at Bulleit/Harrison’s create the recipe and then ask LDI to distill it or does LDI come up with the recipes and these companies select recipe from LDI with the flavor profiles they are looking for? I have also been curious about the aging process in a relationship like this. Is the whiskey aged on site at LDI or do these companies take their product to their own aging facilities. Simply put how much creative input do the “brands” have versus the people at LDI?

  5. Robo, no you are not alone in that feeling. Many feel that way. I’ve conditioned myself to focus on what’s in the bottle and evaluate it on that. However, It disturbs me that some companies are genuinely misleading. Bulleit gets an “okay” grade from me in that department. Some are just blatantly misleading, and I don’t put them in that category. I suppose we can’t expect them to say, “WE DID NOT DISTILL THIS, ONLY BOTTLE IT” on their label. So I get that they aren’t required to throw it out there front and center.

    I should point out that many of these more established/older independent bottlers have their own recipes they want distilled and they contract with a company to do it. Old Rip Van Winkle (makers of Pappy), contracts with Buffalo Trace in that fashion. But most of the new guys I don’t believe are doing that.

    In general I think Independent bottlers are being more honest. They are learning quickly that fooling the consumer is no way to build a brand. Some are slower than others of course. Let’s also remember that it’s common practice in Scotland for a distiller or bottler to buy “brokered” whiskey for certain blends they produce. It’s widely accepted and just part of the business. We’re a little behind there because we have FAR fewer large distilleries.

    That’s a lot of rambling to say that you’re not alone in this feeling. : )

  6. Drew, as mentioned, it’s definitely very confusing. I do believe some give LDI their recipe and then they distill it. But that’s a small small minority. Also, for the right volume, other big boys do that also. Some speculate that Kentucky Bourbon Distillers gets most of their stuff from Heaven Hill. Mostly however, LDI has stock recipes that include a couple different bourbons and this 95% rye. If you see a 95% rye out there, it’s LDI juice more than likely.

    As far aging goes, LDI can make it and give it to the bottler to age at their facility, OR you can age it there. They also have stock of certain recipes aging in their warehouses of various ages. An independent bottler can purchase a minimum of 20 barrels of that stock from LDI.

    I am speaking off the cuff here, but many of these new independent bottlers are calling LDI, asking what stocks they have and then rolling with that. They’re not giving them a recipe and saying, “distill this in this quantity and we’ll start looking at it in a couple years.” That’s just what I think. I cannot say specifically what W.H.Harrison is doing but my guess is they are just selecting from mash bills that LDI has. LDI does make some fantastic whiskey.

  7. Robo says:

    Jason – I’m completely on board with an American Whiskey Blending trend! I have absolutely no problem with what High West is doing because they’re forthright about it and, frankly I think it’s a welcome addition to the American Whiskey offering. Not to mention their stuff is really, really good. It’s Bulleit, Redemption, and their ilk who I’m just a little leery about.

    The Rip Van Winkle/Buffalo Trace connection doesn’t bother me however because I feel like RVW went to BT with a very specific recipe and need. I feel like LDI is just a giant factory churning out products. Similar to a dog breeder versus a puppy mill (if you’re familiar with that analogy that is). It’s just too weird/coincidental that LDI had a 95% rye in the works (independent of Bulleit so I’ve read) and then all of a sudden Bulleit has a 95% rye that, low and behold, comes from LDI. Seems unoriginal to me.

  8. Robo says:

    Apparently, I’ve become a Whiskey snob….and so quickly I might add. Hahahaha.

  9. Robo, I understand the concern. LDI makes excellent, excellent whiskey. Their business model is producing product for others vs. having their own products, but it’s good whiskey and well made. A number of great whiskey industry minds like Chuck Cowdery are trying to inside the doors there so they can learn more about what LDI does. But they definitely are not a factory, and produce much less whiskey than many of the big boys.

    I urge you to give their products (through the bottlers) a try and see what you think.

  10. Robo says:

    Jason – I will have to keep my preconceived notions subdued. I should keep an open mind as to the LDI/Bottler offerings until I can become more familiar with them on a personal level. Thanks for your thoughts. I always appreciate and respect your position.

  11. Texas says:

    High West Rendezvous is amazing..Love WT Rye and RR Rye..Old Overholt..not so much. If/when this shows up in Houston I will definitely try it.

  12. Franco C. says:

    Jason,
    Liked this rye. Not as complex as High West Double Rye or Russell’s Reserve Rye. By the way, your tasting notes often verbalize what my palate senses. How did you establish your whiskey rating abilities? I ask as a novice who wants to learn more. Thanks as always!!!

  13. Franco, thanks for the comment on this one. I agree with you on both accounts with the 2 you mention. Where the boys at High West really elevated their 2 year old LDI product was putting it with a 53% 16 year old rye. That whiskey took that young, fresh, green flavor of the same 2 year old LDI rye and anchored everything with the depth and sweetness of the 16. Brilliant stuff. I enjoy the RR also.

    As for rating and reviewing whiskey I’m not entirely sure. I’m a food guy – I’ve always loved food and have been obsessed with flavors. Having a very large rolodex of flavors to call from helps tremendously. Then it just comes down to spending time with whiskey. To me, i think whiskey can be intimidating for people to dig into. That’s really unfortunate because with a little effort exploring what you like, trying a number of things, and then spending time with some bottles you can develop a palate for it. Sipping 2-3 different whiskeys at a time really helps to show the differences easier. One may be sweeter, another more floral or fruity, etc. etc.

    Time is ultimately the key – spend time tasting and trying new things. Write down the first things that come to your mind. In time you’ll find it easier and easier to pick out flavors.

  14. Dave says:

    Ah, switching to the Glencairn! Welcome to the One True Faith! ;-)

  15. Dave, you caught that eh? Well, I’ve broken 2 of my faves so I’ve reached for these now. I like the Glencairn, but I prefer a stem. Their Copita Nosing Glass is my favorite.

  16. charles says:

    here’s one that i will score and “try” to serve to my wife. she is not a bourbon drinker, so far i’ve only got her to enjoy the peaty islay malts, but as i am reading this she is saying “i’ll have a martini” which means i need to get off my ass and shake some up. you see, martinis for us are always gin, and smidge of vermouth shaken till the frost forms…..can’t wait to try it! thanks for another great tip Jason
    charles

  17. Charles, have a good one and enjoy those Martinis! Hope you’re doing well.

  18. Great notes, though I must say you’re getting a lot more of the bright herbal type notes than I’m picking up in my bottle. A worthy rye for sure.

  19. Brad, for me this one was mostly high notes; green, fresh, floral, spicy without being hot and just enough honey, burned sugar/caramel and vanilla to anchor things a bit. But this just underscores why an individual’s taste is much more important than some guy writing a review. Taste is a subjective thing. But I definitely taste an intense gin botanical note that is cool as hell. Redemption has some of this, though not as much. Double Rye! has this in spades with the 2 year old LDI juice that High West used. Bulleit Rye is a worthy and welcomed addition to rye offerings. For the money it’s a great one. I can see having fun making a lot of interesting cocktails with it.

  20. Snakeman says:

    For people who want to know what LDI offers only need to go to their web sight.
    http://www.lawrenceburgdistillersindiana.com/Default.aspx
    Here is a link to what they offer;
    http://www.lawrenceburgdistillersindiana.com/Custom.aspx

    I have a bottle of Tempelton Rye that is also LDI stock. Took Tempelton a while to disclose that, but the now do so. They are also playing with a small still, but that is not capable of producing the volume they need for their current distribution level.

    If this profile of Bulleit compares to that of the bottle of Templeton I have, then I’m going to pass. Neither me nor the wife got excited with the Templeton Rye. I guess Al Capone’s palate is different the ours.
    http://www.templetonrye.com/home/

    Thanks again for another enjoyable review, Jason

  21. Snakeman, I will have to say that the Bulleit will be a polarizing whiskey. Those flavors are intense and well defined. Some will appreciate it and others will not.

    Thanks for the link also!

  22. Chris says:

    Enjoyed the review Jason. I am always impressed with how many flavors you are able to pick up. I liked this rye a lot and it seemed that many others felt the same way at this Saturdays Whiskies of the World event in San Francisco.

  23. Chris, how was the event? I saw you were going and meant to ask you about it. I’m sure it was a blast. My next whiskey event is WhiskyFest in Chicago. I’m looking forward to it, but I’ll have to check out the whiskies of the world next year. Anything blow you away?

  24. Chris says:

    Jason,

    Whiskies of the World was a solid event this year. It hits a nice sweet spot of a good selection of whiskies, including a bunch of craft distillers, but isn’t overwhelmingly large. I’m looking forward to this year’s WhiskyFest as well, still have quite a wait though.

    Nothing blew me away per se. Some good ones though: Indy bottling of Port Ellen, Indy sherried Mortlach and some Glenglassaugh new makes (4 variations). Finally tried High West’s Silver and last St. George, here in Berkeley, definitely had some intriguing stuff: whiskey using wort from Sierra Nevada’s celebration ale and IPA.

  25. Chris I want to try the St. George badly. When I get out that way soon I’m going to stop by K&L and see if those guys can get me some (Stupid shipping laws for TN!). I love what they are doing and just really want to try it.

  26. Texas says:

    I bought this over the weekend. I wanted to get the Rittenhouse but did not want to drive into downtown Houston.

    This rye is very crisp and refreshing (I like it better over ice), but I must say I prefer RR Rye and WT Rye 101.

  27. Chimay says:

    Jason, I hope this is okay but this goes really well with rye whiskey/
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=braQeLkJUvE

  28. Chimay – I concur! I love those guys.

  29. Tonight I bought the Rittenhouse Rye 100 and a bottle of this to compare back to back. Prior to tonight I’d say the RR 100 was my favorite budget Rye but I think the Bulleit takes a slight nod from me after alternating between the two for the night. To me it tastes cleaner, sweeter, and more coherent. It lacks the spiciness of finish that the RR has, but that’s ok.

    Jason, awesome site btw! I just found it a couple weeks ago and have systematically been tasting your reviewed whiskeys. My favorite so far is the Double Rye! I see the Rendezvous Rye next to it at my local liquor store but haven’t picked it up yet. Do you like it as much as the Double Rye!?

    My first love was Irish whiskey, specifically Jameson, but lately I’m loving the American stuff more and more. As you say Jason, I feel like there’s so much passion and creativity going on in the American whiskey scene right now which is making me a fan. On the Irish front, it’s hard to say, but certainly less than here in the US.

    Wow, long comment! Starting on an alternating glass of the Rittenhouse now. Cheers everyone!

  30. Also, after further tasting, I feel like I can taste the influence of the Bulleit (LDI) Rye product in the Double Rye! I so love.

  31. Ryan, I love that you enjoy Rye so much. I do as well – I consider it an American Treasure. What it appears you really love is the very very rye-forward rye whiskeys. Rittenhouse is a “bourbon drinkers rye” as I call it. And what I mean by that is there is a lot more corn in the mashbill than in the rye whiskey you have mentioned liking more. Double Rye! and Bulleit has enormously high percentages of rye grain. For this reason I don’t think there is any doubt that you’ll love Rendezvous. I think it’s one of the best Rye’s on the market – I gave it a 9.4 on this site. It has more sweetness and depth than Double Rye!. It’s a more mature, less green and fresh, whiskey than DR as well.

    Thanks for the comments. Cheers!

  32. Jason,

    I just tried the Bulleit Bourbon last night and thought it was quite good, although not quite as good as I had heard from some friends. Any chance we’ll see a Bulleit Bourbon review soon? What do you think of the product?

  33. Ryan, I do enjoy Bulleit Bourbon. I should be able to fit in a review at some point soon. Off the cuff, it will likely slot somewhere in the low to mid 8′s. That’s just off hand – I’ll have to spend some time with it and do a more formal review soon. CHeers!

  34. New Girl says:

    HI Jason,
    I am completely new to buying/drinking bourbon and whiskey. I’m so glad I found your blog! Tonight, I bought a bottle of Elmer T. Lee bourbon as my first ever liquor purchase (apart from wine, beer, etc). The person helping me at the liquor store recommended this one ( the Bulleit 95 ) as well as the Elmer. I went with the Elmer (because it was just ten bucks more than the rye and he thought it would be a sure-fire winner.) But now I’m curious about this one. What is the difference between a bourbon like the Elmer and the rye, like this one? I’ve seen your review of the Elmer, but I’d be interested in your take on a comparison of the two, since you’ve given them both high marks and it seems that they are quite different. I look forward to hearing what you think! Thanks so much. :*)

  35. I do agree with the bit of one dimensionality here, though after watching this review I feel I need to go back and try it out again. Not to mention, I feel like most things I hear about LDI have been negative in terms of their elusiveness – which I shouldn’t let distort my view, nor is it entirely fair. And, as you said, they put out a good product, though I haven’t had a chance to sample as many of them as I like.

  36. Jon says:

    Your review was spot on. The Gin botanical reference was brilliant and completely accurate. I agree with the weight being lacking, however IMHO I am perfectly happy without the the lack of sweetness and enjoy the herbal nature of this spirit. While I am not a person to get in a heated discourse of “who distilled what discussion” I am very pleased to have tried this based on your recommendation and really enjoyed your description and review.

  37. Thanks Jon! Glad you enjoyed it.

  38. Jon says:

    Jason, I came back to this bottle this evening with the bottle about just over 1/2 full. On the tasting it now it seems to have mellowed with gin botanicals and the pungent rye flavors are really coming through mixed with raw honey, vanilla and char from the barrel. Very interesting how it has changed with oxidation. I really like it even more. Have you noticed this since trying it originally and is this change more common with the rye based Bourbons, instead of the wheat, etc? Thanks in advance.

  39. Jon, some good notes and thoughts. I just poured a glass based on your thoughts and I do somewhat agree. The green, gin and juniper aromas are very prevalent on the nose, but I agree on the palate. These have softened some. Particularly the char flavors have elevated. Good palate.

  40. Jim Listerman says:

    Jason-

    MGPI Lawrenceburg Indiana Distillery (Division of MGP) / Contract Distillers Bulleit Rye……..

    Corporate recently disclosed purchase of distillery from LDI working GREAT for MGP.

    2012 very profitable year @ Lawrenceburg.

    Whiskey Growth in 2012 and Future Growth Potential Makes For Very Happy New Owners !*!*!

    Jim Listerman
    Cincinnati, Ohio

  41. Jim says:

    Jason-

    MGPI Lawrenceburg Indiana announcing additional mashbills.

    New recipes for additional rye whiskey variations.

    Time to start your own label !

  42. paul michael says:

    Jon-
    I had a similar experience with this whiskey. When I first tried it I was disappointed. The botanicals were nice and all, but didn’t get much spice or rye flavor. Over the course of three weeks I’d have an occasional dram or mix it in a Manhattan. My impression was that It was palatable, but not anything I would want to buy again. Then I tried it again last night- both on its own with a few drops of water, and mixed in a Manhattan. I couldn’t believe I was drinking the same whiskey. The nose has blossomed with cinnamon, all spice and a few sweet floral notes that weren’t there before. On the palate it has really opened up too with the spices, heat, and bready flavors that I like in a good rye. Now I understand why so many people enjoy this as one of the best values in rye whiskey.

  43. Davethebarber says:

    This a fantastic tasting whiskey. My first 95% rye. On the tasting notes though I taste, ready for this, bubblegum. Anyone else?

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