Bulleit Bourbon experienced such huge success with their Bulleit Rye that it’s no surprise to see them continue to expand their offerings. After hitting a grand slam home run in the rye whiskey space, Bulleit is trying their hand in the premium bourbon space (at the $45 price point) with Bulleit 10. Bulleit is an interesting brand: it’s owned by Diageo, and produced both at the Four Roses Distillery in Kentucky and MGP Ingredients in Indiana (for the rye). While there’s a great history in the brand, the spirit doesn’t have a specific place it calls home. There are rumors that Diageo is doing renovations to the legendary Stitzel-Weller Distillery with the plan to make it the future home of Bulleit, but nothing has been announced or confirmed.
As we’ve seen with the outstanding Bulleit Rye, where your spirit is made is much less important than what’s in the bottle. While there’s no age statement on the Original Bulleit Bourbon, we’d expect the spirit in that release to be a blend of whiskey anywhere between 4 and 6 years. Many bourbon manufacturers blend their bourbons to taste rather than to age, a major differentiator between American whiskey and Scotch whisky. With bourbon, age statements can be a bit deceiving. How old a bourbon is may not be as important as where it was aged – barrels on lower floors of rack houses in Kentucky age much differently from the ones on the top. It’s also important to remember that older whiskey doesn’t mean better, and for some mashbills, especially those that are high in wheat, the balance of the spirit changes dramatically at the 9 year mark.
Bulleit Bourbon 10 (91.2 proof / 45.6% AVB, $44.99) is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, which means that it was produced and likely aged at Four Roses Distillery. Bulleit 10 is light brown in color and looks like it’s been chill filtered. From the start, Bulleit 10′s time in oak is apparent with a solid oak-dominant nose. While the oak notes in the nose are strong, they aren’t overwhelming and they are well balanced with a nice cinnamon spice and a very slight undertone of vanilla and marzipan. Bulleit 10 leads with oak on the entry, strong but not overwhelming. The oak is supported by a really nice cinnamon spice, vanilla, and rye grain. The cinnamon spice intensifies in the midpalate coming to near parity with the oak and then leads to a slightly spicy finish. The finish has a really nice dry quality to it which is extremely well executed. The finish creates this nice bookend to balance out the spirit, which comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb. Although the oak and cinnamon spice notes are strong, the bourbon is never hot and it drinks a lot easier than its 91.2 proof.
At this age, Bulleit Bourbon 10 could have easily been too oaky or too dry, but instead manages to present solid oak in a balanced way and deliver some nice dryness in the finish. The mouthfeel on Bulleit 10 is nice, too, and it goes on an enjoyable journey from heavier at the start to quite light on the finish. Recently, there have been a bevy of overly oak-forward whiskeys hitting the market, especially the premium market, and so it’s nice to see Bulleit do a good job balancing out a solid oak-forward whiskey. That being said, Bulleit 10 is not a powerhouse whiskey, and it’s not big or complex enough to blow away the hardcore bourbon fan. What Bulleit lacks in complexity, though, it more than makes up in finesse.
The only thing we struggle with is the price. At $45, Bulleit 10 is a hefty $20 or so over the base Bulleit product, and $10 over their excellent rye. It’s even more expensive than Four Roses’ superb single barrel release. It would have been nice for Bulleit to bring in the Bulleit 10 at or near the rye. While price is malleable, what’s inside the bottle isn’t, and Bulleit has done a really good job extending their line with another offering that current Bulleit fans will quite enjoy.