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Bulleit Rye Frontier Whiskey

Review: Bulleit Rye Frontier Whiskey   78.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted May 01, 2015

Bulleit traces its heritage back to 1830 when tavern keeper Augustus Bulleit (after a few experimental trials) created his Bulleit Bourbon and began to market his whiskey both locally and then later to areas outside of Kentucky. As misfortune would have it, Augustus Bulleit disappeared while transporting some barrels of his bourbon to New Orleans, and the brand disappeared for over 100 years. In 1987, Tom Bulleit revived the brand which bears his great-great grandfather’s name. (Today the brand is owned by the Diageo Conglomerate who market the product throughout North America and into Europe.)

Bulleit Rye Frontier Whiskey is bottled at 45% alcohol by volume and (according to the Bulleit  website) the spirit is a straight whiskey produced from a heavy rye mashbill (95 % rye) which also contains a small amount of malted barley (5 %). The whiskey carries no age statement, however based upon my tastings I would estimate the age of the spirit to be in the range of 5 years old with some of the whiskey possibly older, and some of the whiskey possibly younger.

Bulleit Rue SAM_1513In the Bottle 4/5

The rye whiskey arrives in the clear oval-shaped bottle shown to the left. The clear glass is embossed with lettering which simply states Bulleit Rye Frontier Whiskey. Under the embossed lettering is a green label with black print affixed to the bottle at a slight angle which I am sure is intended to give the impression that the whiskey is hand labelled, and this in turn reinforces the notion that the bourbon is hand-crafted. The bottle is sealed with a cork stopper although my understanding in that in some markets a screw cap closure is used.

In the Glass 8/10

I poured out a small sample of the whiskey into my glencairn glass and began my review with a look at the spirit. It has a golden colour which is perhaps a little darker than is consistent with a straight whiskey which has spent at five or so years in new oak barrels. (Perhaps we have a little caramel colour added). I gave my glencairn a tilt and a slow swirl and discovered the spirit imparts a light sheen on the inside of the glass when swirled and medium-sized legs formed.

When I nosed the glass, I found it was full of sappy new wood smells of both oak and cedar with accents of fresh rye bread. Dusty dry grain and honeycomb are evident as well. There is a sense of fresh tobacco with some light baking spices (vanilla, ginger and cinnamon) and maple syrup as well. As the glass sits, the woody oak builds, some bittersweet chocolate reaches up and more rye grain and rye spice well up into the breezes. I would score the whiskey higher, but for some unwanted astringncy and an off note of a metallic bitterness which has filtered up as well.

In the Mouth 47/60

The first sip brings forward a mixture of spicy heat and dry sappy bitterness which both dries and puckers the palate. The whiskey gives me the impression that I have popped a freshly cut chips of poplar and cedar into my mouth. I find the whiskey a little difficult to sip enjoyably as along with the combination of spiciness and dryness there is a disconcerting bitterness which steals my pleasure.

To be fair to the Bulleit Rye, I find most straight whiskeys have a similar taste profile which I would describe as sharp and rough (a straight whiskey is one which has been barreled in fresh unused oak). The fresh barrels used to mature the spirit impart strong woody flavours which taste to me almost like wood sap. I find the rye and the lightly sweet caramel and maple flavours get a little lost in the shuffle. However, I found if I let my glass sit, the rye comes back, bringing flavours of fresh rye grain, honeycomb, maple and bittersweet chocolate along which fortunately serve to soothe the sharpness to some degree and provide some needed complexity. Unfortunately the bitterness within this particular dram is not quelled to the point where sipping is enjoyable.

In the Throat 11.5/15

The whiskey exits with a kick of rye and wood spice that gets you square in the tonsils. The heat from the fresh oak is felt throughout the palate and a creeping burn of spice builds in the back of the throat. All of this might be refreshing except for an unfortunate metallic bitterness which also slides down and builds with each sip.

The Afterburn  8/10

I was, unfortunately a little disappointed with the Bulleit Rye Frontier Whiskey. I found the whiskey’s dry spicy flavour profile and the accompanying bitterness unappealing. I suspect a few more years of maturation in the oak barrel would bring more smoothness forward and would perhaps bring about a better balance of flavour.

All was not lost, as I found that a little dollop of ginger ale and a few cubes of ice made for a nice tall cocktail which I am sure to enjoy more of in the coming summer months.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

Bulleit Rye SAM_1512Here is a cocktail which works well with almost any Rye Whiskey.

Rye Whiskey Splash

2 oz Bulleit Rye Frontier Whiskey
2 or 3 Large Ice-cubes
Splash of Ginger-ale

Add the Ice-cubes to a rocks glass
Pour the Whiskey over the ice
Add a splash of Ginger Ale

Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74   Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+        I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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