Bulleit Rye - Bolting its Way Forward

Bulleit, the renowned distilling company, has given the world two of the most affordable and delicious spirits – Bulleit Bourbon and Bulleit Rye. Unapologetic in using more rye than usual, the company is responsible for some award winning liquors. One of them is Bulleit Rye that has a staggering 95% rye grains mixed with 5% malted barley. A normal rye whiskey can have anywhere above 51% of the grain in the mash.

Since its launch in 2011, Bulleit Rye has garnered recognitions and recommendations from big names in the industry, including San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Beverage Testing Institute, Ultimate Spirits Challenge, and Spirit Journal.

Even though Bulleit Rye has been around for just seven years, its mature flavours speak to every young and old straight rye whiskey lover. It is hot, spicy, oaky and dry – everything a connoisseur wants in their rye liquor while they enjoy their Cuban cigar. Notes of cloves, cinnamon, and pepper with subtle hints of peaches and apricots goes down smooth with that familiar and delicious dry, woody and smoky aroma, which obviously commemorates the charred oak barrel it aged in.

History of the Bulleits

The concept behind this interesting mash bill and aging is credited to Thomas E. Bulleit, better known as Tom Bulleit, and his daughter Hollis. Although, his idea of getting people high on rye is nowhere original. The romance with rye started in his family almost two centuries ago, when French-immigrant to the new America, Augustus Bulleit, Tom’s great-great grandfather concocted a whiskey with two-thirds of rye and one-third corn. Those were the days when the Bourbon law that decrees the concoction to have 51% corn hadn’t come about. So, Augustus sold his Bulleit ‘Bourbon’ with more-rye-than-corn to its drinkers in New Orleans. Legend has it that during one of his trading trips to the city by boat, he mysteriously disappeared and never resurfaced. With his ominous end in 1860, his whiskey brand was discontinued.

Over a hundred years later, Tom revived Augustus’ high-rye whiskey recipe. His story began in 1987, when after quitting his high-paying law practice, Tom decided to pursue his passion for whiskey trading. After struggling for ten years, he partnered with Diageo PLC (earlier Seagram’s) that provided his brand with marketing and distribution support.

Tom’s career risk eventually paid off and Bulleit Bourbon became a pocket-friendly bourbon of choice for drinkers. Bars in California took a special liking to the bourbon, as it was a great cocktail mixer. To serve their rye whiskey cocktail loving customers, bartenders wished for a rye whiskey by Bulleit. When this reached Tom’s ears, he teamed up with Hollis to meet the new demand.

Distilling and More

Tom Bulleit, until then did not own a distillery of his own, but subcontracted the liquor-making to other distilleries. He approached Greg Metze, master distiller of the Lawrenceburg (Indiana) based MGP Ingredients multi-label distillery to produce Bulleit Rye. MGP then had already begun 95% rye whiskey production for Templeton and High West. Their well-established and expansive facilities with the easy availability of the choicest rye grains were perfect to kick-start Bulleit Rye’s production.

MGP used large column stills to distill the mixed mash. Its barrel storage facility aged the rye spirit for four to six years. Bottles were custom-made with glass-raised labels. The green color of the label towards the bottom of the bottle is said to have been chosen after many deliberations. Bulleit Rye is mentioned as “Bulleit 95 Rye” to iterate the 95% rye content of the whiskey. The amber colored liquor was bottle 45% ABV (90 proof) that was hot and spicy enough to raise people’s spirits. Its layers of complexity made it stand out of the liquor shelves as it became the go to whiskey mixer for cocktails.

In bars, Bulleit Rye was an instant hit. Soon everyone ordering Manhattans wanted them with Bulleit Rye. Its sharpness and delicious notes of savory cereal grains generated a steady clientele. In its first year of launch, Bulleit Rye won a Double Gold Medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and got a “Highly Recommended” star from Spirit Journal.

Bulle(i)ting Into the Future

Tom Bulleit has come a long way since he started selling Bulleit whiskies in person. After selling majority stakes to London-based Diageo PLC, Bulleit received the required support that helped Bulleit Rye to gain such international recognitions.

The Bulleit Distilling Company has now spread its wings further with the recent opening of its first own distillery in a 300-acre property on the outskirts of Shelbyville, Kentucky. With an investment of $115 billion and installing a modern 52-foot still, the Bulleits expect to produce 1.8 million proof whiskey gallons yearly.