Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Have just tried - Bulleit Rye

The Bulleit Rye is the newest addition to the Bulleit Bourbon range.  It was first launched in the USA in 2011 and proved extremely popular. This has resulted in it being rolled out in selected other markets in late 2013, including Australia and the UK.  The Bulleit Rye is made using a mash bill of 95% rye grain and 5% malted barley.  This rye content is high compared to most other American rye whiskeys on the market.  The minimum percentage to be legally called a rye whiskey is 51%.

The original Bulleit was first created by Augustus Bulleit in the 1830s.  He had produced brandy in France and moved from there to America in the early 1800s.  He moved to the state of Kentucky in 1830 and with it being the heart of America's whiskey industry he fell in love with bourbon and decided to make his own. Bulleit experimented with different recipes before settling on one that contained malted barley and a high percentage of rye. He produced his bourbon in small batches and its popularity grew rapidly.

In 1860 Augustus Bulleit mysteriously disappeared.  With no-one to take over the distilling was stopped shortly afterwards. The Bulleit name was re-introduced to the American whiskey industry by Augustus' great great grandson in 1987. Tom Bulleit had discovered some of Augustus' old documents and bourbon recipes, and decided to recreate the whiskey. It took him a number of years to develop everything and he tried to stay as close to his great great grandfather's recipe as possible, including that high level of rye.

Bulleit Bourbon hit the American market in 1999 and one year later it was introduced in to the Australian, European and UK markets. The brand is now owned by drinks giant Diageo and is made under license at the Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The Bulleit Rye is made in even smaller batches than the Bourbon and is aged for four years in charred oak casks. It is bottled at 45% ABV and is available in specialist liquor retailers. A bottle should cost around £40.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose is packed with attractive aromas.  There are immediate hits of vanilla and maraschino cocktail cherry, and these are backed up further aromas of coconut, bittersweet cereals and candied lemons.  Underneath are hints of cinnamon bark, mace and varnished wood.

On the palate this whiskey feels instantly sweet, before a wave of drier and bitter notes move in and ultimately take over.  The sweetness is driven by notes of honey and vanilla, and these are supported by further notes of maraschino cherry and hints of icing sugar and candyfloss.  Things begin to change with the increasing presence of a bittersweet cereal element.  This has the effect of drying the mouth and is backed up by further warming wood spices such as cinnamon and a hint of earthy ginger.  The citrus-like fruitiness from the nose is also presence and again has a candied feel, although this tends towards a mix of lemon and orange now.

The finish is dry and warming with the cereals and wood spices to the fore.  A pleasant background sweetness (think of those cherry and vanilla characteristics in particular) stop it from being too dry.

What's the verdict?
We have not sampled many rye whiskeys and the Bulleit seems a perfect introduction to the category.  It has plenty of lovely characteristics but without being too complicated or complex.  It is delicious and fresh to drink neat, and would be lovely if used in one of the classic American cocktails such as a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned.  Well worth searching out and one that makes us want to try more ryes.

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