...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey (2015)

Bulleit is owned by Diageo, though sources its rye from MDP and bourbon from Four Roses. Diageo admits outright that its rye is from the Midwest Grain Products WonderFactory™. The bourbon source though remains a bit cloudy. It's either a mix of Four Roses recipes or there's another distillery's stuff in there. At some point in a few years, someone else's juice will indeed be in the mix now that the Four Roses contract has finished. For better informed speculation about all of this stuff, I recommend this post by Chuck Cowdery and its comment section.  Bulleit's original source, in the '90s, was Ancient Age. Their future source (they hope) will be their own distillery in Shelby, KY—which actually had its ribbon cut two weeks ago.

Yes, this is a Diageo product. And, yes, the whole "Frontier Whiskey" branding thing is dubious. But I've always found it to be a reliable whiskey. It was always $19.99 at Trader Joe's and its generous rye content made it a good ingredient for cocktails. Plus, I think every casual bourbon drinker I know has told me he or she loves the stuff. Thus my opinion on this bourbon matters even less than usual, but that never stopped me before.

Brand: Bulleit
Distillered at: Four Roses Distillery (probably)
Owner: Diageo
Type: straight bourbon whiskey
Age: allegedly 6 years, though take that with a byte of salt
Mashbill: 68% corn, 28% rye, 4% malted barley
Bottling Year: 2015
Alcohol by Volume: 45%
(Sample from my father-in-law's bottle)

The nose starts off with some serious rye notes, almost like Alberta Distillers' 100% stuff. But then comes some charred corn, musty oak and a small farmy note. Some earthy molasses, clay and hazelnuts. After 20+ minutes, there's some honey butter and a hint of vanilla. There's a very even delivery to the palate. It's not too sweet, with the corn syrup note staying in the background and the berry notes registering more like essence than sugar. The good rye buzz shows up here. A hint of wood smoke. Some good heat. It finishes with (honey) sweetness and (rye & wood) spice. A hint of fried plantains. A moderate warmth. Simple but problem-free.

Totally reliable stuff. Can't say I love it, but it carries the ball without fumbling. That's a terrible metaphor. Because its price is still very reasonable, I recommend this bourbon most for cocktails. It makes a decent Old Fashioned, Manhattan and Highball. I am curious to see what happens to its quality once there's no Four Roses bourbon in the bottle. I'll review it again then...

Availability - Everywhere
Pricing - $20-$35
Rating - 83 (though a couple points better when in cocktails)


  1. Your "either or" is wrong. It isn't a mix of Four Roses recipes, and no other distillery juice is mixed in. Four Roses distilled the stuff on a contract basis, with Bulleit specifying the mashbill they wanted Four Roses to use. It is the same thing Michter's has been doing.

    1. Hi Richard, I know you've been a great reader of this blog for a while and I'm sure you mean well, but it's tough to have a discussion about this when you outright call me wrong without citing any sources for your information. I'm open to discuss Bulleit's sources and am open to be convinced of your side of the story, just sell me on it.

      My information comes from this Chuck Cowdery post and its subsequent comment discussion:

      Especially note this comment:

      Another link I provided in my post was from the Kentucky Herald leader, which said "It has been an open secret in the industry that Four Roses in Lawrenceburg made MOST of the bourbon for Bulleit" (the caps are my emphasis)

      Please let me know where your info is from. Thanks.

    2. I certainly didn't mean my comment to seem aggressive or hostile, but I can see, now, how it might be read that way. My apologies for that. Can I prove my claim? No. Frankly, with my reading about whisky taking me to every nook and cranny of the internet, I can't remember WHERE I read the information about Bulleit contracting with Four Roses to make bourbon according to Bulleit's specifications. I just remember that I did read that. (I'd even have to say the same thing if you asked me to cite my source for Michter's contracting, as opposed to just buying up pre-existing stock.) There is of course no reason for you to just trust me about this, but since your "either or" suggests you don't have any firm belief about it yourself, and it would be difficult to think of any motive for a person to lie about a matter of no consequence in this place, there really is no call for you, or anybody else reading, to DIS-trust what I say, either. Still, if you do distrust it, I will have to accept that.:)

    3. Hey Richard. Yep, you're right, I don't have the firmest of beliefs about Bulleit's bourbon sourcing. The Whisky Lately guy referenced matter-of-factly that it was a half-and-half split between an existing 35% rye mashbill and an existing 20% rye mashbill. But he cited no source either, and I have yet to hear that claim backed up by anyone else. If you do find official info about this stuff, please let me know and I will update my post. Thank you very much for your response!