By Father John Rayls
For the time being, Bulleit Frontier Whiskey is headquartered in the historical (and defunct) Stitzel-Weller Distillery of Pappy Van Winkle fame in Louisville, Kentucky. For the time being, because later this summer they will have a brand new, $115 million plant in Shelbyville.
Bulleit is a good everyday-drinking, moderately priced whiskey brand. In 1987, Thomas Bulleit began producing Bulleit Frontier Whiskey in honor of his great great grandfather Augustus, who pioneered an unusually high rye bourbon in the 1830’s while looking for a unique flavor profile. Yet the company has had no working distillery of their own, and the current source distiller is unknown to the public. Previously it was sourced through Four Roses, who matched Bulleit’s interest in having a high rye bourbon. While Bulleit probably still has the old Four Roses stock on hand, some of the content may now be coming from elsewhere
The characteristic Bulleit bottle style adds something of the antique to this modern whiskey, and this new barrel strength offering weighs in with an ABV of somewhere between 59.0% to 62.5% (118 to 125 proof), with my sample running 119.2 proof. It has a beautiful, dark coppery color in the bottle and the glass. In the glass, light reflecting off the whiskey highlights readily apparent gold tints, and the legs appear to be long, but are otherwise thin and drain quickly to the bottom.
The aromas include sweet cedar, cereal and caramel and a nice overall woodiness. My pour, which is at the lower end of the strength scale, had some very slight alcohol burn on the nose.
The taste has a very interesting aspect of oak and caramel, with some light maple on top. The rye brings some light spiciness to the palate, leading to a long dry finish. Most of the action begins at mid-mouth moves very subtlety to the back and roof of the mouth before returning to mid-mouth with a real presence. The finish is almost entirely back where it all started.
This is a whiskey that needs to be sipped slowly to appreciate all of its nuance. There is a satin feel to this whiskey that is appealing, even though I prefer a little edge to my drink. However, it does drink just very slightly hot. Even so, I think this is the best of the Bulleit offerings. You should definitely consider adding this to your collection for cocktails and everyday sipping.
Bulleit Barrel Strength Bourbon is available in both the traditional 750ml bottle and the 375ml bottle. It is priced at $49.99 and $29.99 respectively, but is initially being offered in Kentucky alone. National distribution will follow.