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Review: Bulleit and Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon

Bulleit is a growing brand owned by the largest beverage alcohol company in the world, Diageo. Bulleit has certainly made a name for itself in the last 14 or so years. A lot of Bulleit’s growth has to do with being embraced by the ‘craft’ cocktail movement that has taken place in the last decade. I don’t have a plethora of facts to back that up admittedly but if you have been paying attention at your local upscale watering holes I think you’ll agree.

The first product produced under the Bulleit brand was Bulleit Bourbon, a high rye grain bill made for Diageo by Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY. Seagrams owned Four Roses since the early 1940′s, and purchased the Bulleit brand name in the late 90′s. Upon hitting hard times due to a diluted portfolio, Seagrams was purchased by Vivendi, who then sold it’s whiskey brands to Diageo. Whew (almost done)! Diageo then sold Four Roses to Kirin out of Japan, but kept the Bulleit brand name, which was distilled at Four Roses under contract. That contract continues to this day for Bulleit brand bourbons.

In the last year and a half, Bulleit expanding portfolio saw the introduction of a rye whiskey produced by Midwest Grain Products (MGP, formerly LDI). In the last month they’ve released a 10 year old version of namesake Bourbon. The subject of this review is the company’s orange labeled flagship as well as the new 10 year old. Let’s get to tasting shall we…….

Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey, 45% abv (90 Proof), $25/bottle
Color: Medium Amber/Deep Orange
Nose: Caramel, fragrant and sweet orange rind, clove, vanilla, spiced honey, hints of banana, and wet stone. The nose is crisp, mildly floral, and razor sharp.
Palate Caramel and vanilla up front but overcome quickly by cinnamon red hots, orange rind, and clove. Healthy spices here but with an attitude that is not overly aggressive nor too “hot”.
Finish Cinnamon, vanilla, lingering earth/minerality and barrel.
Overall: One sip and you’ll see why Bulleit is loved by cocktail enthusiasts. It’s clean and sharp leaning towards the drier side of things on the palate. As a neat sipper it works very well and offers versatility in a shaker to boot. Much like Four Roses Small Batch, when used to make an Old Fashioned or Mint Julep, the fruit and spice notes really come through. This one is not very frontier like at all, and that’s probably a good thing.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.4 (Very Good)

Bulleit 10 Year Old Bourbon Frontier Whiskey, 45.6% abv (91.2 Proof), $45/bottle
Color: Medium Amber/ Deep Orange/ Copper
Nose: Stickier, richer and fuller on the nose than little brother. Caramel candy, maple sugars, vanilla, citrus rind, black tea, clove, and a healthy backbone of wood.
Palate Caramel and vanilla wrapped around a fruity core of orange and red apple. The wood notes ramp up quickly at mid palate. Barrel spices abound (cinnamon, clove, and a bit of licorice bite) without being overly dry.
Finish Big barrel spice and wood notes. Subtle caramel sweetness. Moderate length.
Overall: Certainly the oak influence is ramped up considerably as you would expect, but not overly so. It’s a bit sweeter, richer, and bolder than the younger Bulleit. It’s also a great sipper neat, with a splash, or with a cube. I found the fruitier and sweet spice notes more pleasing to my palate on the whole, but keep in mind the $20 price difference. Is it worth it? If you are a Bulleit fan or a fan of drier bourbons I’d recommend this one.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.7 (Excellent)

25 Comments

  1. WarEagleDG says:

    I just opened my first bottle of the 10 year last night too. I really enjoyed it. I can see Bulleit making it into my rotation.

  2. sam k says:

    Thanks for the head-to-head comparison. It makes for a better read. I think you need to update the price of the 10 year.

  3. Samk – updated. Thanks for keeping me straight!

  4. Matthieu Vallée says:

    The first Bourbon I ever bought, but it’s not in my rotation, since I mainly sip my spirits. I wish it were though: it’s 33$ here in Québec, about the same price as Jim Bean Black, Jack Daniel’s or Fighting Cock, while my favourite sippers are at 40$ (Buffalo Trace) and $50 (Maker’s Mark 46).

    I always found the spices to be too sharp, unbalanced with the rest of the flavors. The same thing makes it good for bourbon balls though (needs a bit more wood), and probably great for cocktails.

  5. Nick says:

    This bourbon is one of the finer pours of the year. Very pleased with the complexity here. Lots to ponder on this guy. Blogs seem to be a bit down on it for price point, but I think it holds its own just fine. Buy it if you get a chance. Better day two as well after it gets a wiff of fresh air. If you like vanilla, this is your guy.

  6. Randy says:

    I am an avid bourbon drinker and I love all of your post. I am sipping or drinking some VOB right now and what a great Bourbon. I love all types of whiskey and often drink canadian blends. There is nothing like a full bodied bourbon to me though. So look forward to hearing all of your reviews and I sure will post some myself.

  7. Joe Serapilio says:

    Hey Jason, I recently bought a 1.75 of this.Never was a staple in my cabinet. I ‘m finding In enjoy this more & more. love the clean, crisp oaky finish.The only thing I would love to see the proof up around 94 or 95.I haven’t seen the 10 year in my area yet. Joe

  8. David Markle says:

    Did you notice on the cardboard box, that they’ve printed Tom Bulleit’s address as “Tom Bullet at Stitzel-Weller …”?

  9. James says:

    This came across as a bit flat to me. Brown sugar on the nose, then a little bit of sweet, a bit of prickle….gone. Oh well. The differences in our palates are probably more varied than the differences in these bourbons. Bulleit has a very on point marketing strategy and I enjoy their product design. I look forward to trying their rye. I’ve found that since joining this site I’ve been able to get a pulse on my taste based partially on some of the descriptors you use coupled with the information available about mash bills, ect.. Also I’ve been drinking a healthy dose of bourbon! That being said, I’ve really never considered rye whiskey much because of my nostalgic connection and state pride movement for bourbon, but I have found that rye forward bourbons as very suited to my taste. I’m looking forward to taking my adventure into the rye whiskey world.

  10. CJ Napoleon says:

    Just pick up a bottle, haven’t opened it yet. I’ve been pretty stuck on Four Roses SB. But after this review looks like I might crack that seal tonight. Thank you sir for another great review as always.

  11. Jim Listerman says:

    Road Trip……!

    Bulleit Frontier Bourbon and Bulleit 10 Year distilled at Four Roses Distillery (Lawrenceburg Kentucky).

    Personally visited the distillery two times in 2012 (May & September).

    Four Roses filled it’s “White Dog” assignment in May and I missed seeing fermentation & distilling.

    Stopped back in September to catch distillery fully operational.

    Lucky to arrive 1st Day for New Visitor’s Center.

    New building is fantastic……

    Excellent design and craftsmanship.

    Join the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

    Fun way to learn about Bourbon and see Kentucky !

    Jim Listerman
    Cincinnati, Ohio

  12. Grant Tryon says:

    Just tried Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey for the first time. I can definitely relate to the banana, orange peel, clove, and explosive amounts of cinnamon. VERY clean bourbon with a very dry finish. Reminded me of Elmer T. Lee a lot.

  13. wfgjr says:

    Jason, Thank you so much for your reviews. They are very helpful to a bourbon newbie like me. Tried the orange label Belleit a couple months ago. Was not impressed with it neat, but assume it would make a fine cocktail. I’m on my second pour of the 10 year old, and wow what a difference. This could get to be a regular. I see the similarities to Four Roses SB, but it also reminds me of Elijah Craig 12. Thanks again for your great posts.

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  16. masterbuilder says:

    So pleased to find the 10 yo in Pennsylvania ( the wasteland of quality Bourbons ).

    The front of fruit and spice is luscious. The mid fades a little too quickly. There’s too much spice and too little flavor. I wish it finished longer.

    Still, for a “modern” premium, it’s a tasty one. 88/100.

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  1. [...] with the former passing and the latter performing very well.  According to my roommate Chris and Jason Pyle, both these whiskeys are very good in cocktails.  I have every reason to suspect that the Bulleit [...]