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Bulleit Small Batch 95 Rye

Review: Bulleit Small Batch 95 Rye Whiskey   80/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted April 30, 2016

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 Small Batch 95 Rye Frontier Whiskey (bottled as Bulleit Frontier Rye Whisky in Canada) 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 %).

Bulleit RyeIn the Bottle 4/5

The Bulleit 95 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

Before I nosed the glass, I decided to pour out a small sample of the Canadian Bottling (Bulleit Frontier Rye Whiskey) as well. The two whiskeys appeared identical visually, and indeed when I nosed them side by side, I could not really decipher any real difference in overall character. Both were full of new wood smells with indications of fresh sap, fresh-cut oak and cedar and obvious accents of fresh rye bread. In fact the tasting notes that I wrote out by hand this time were pretty much in complete agreement with the notes I had written previously for the Canadian Bottling which I reviewed in 2015.

Dusty dry grain and honeycomb are evident. There is a sense of fresh tobacco with some light baking spices (vanilla, ginger and cinnamon) and maple syrup. As the glass sits, woody oak smells build, some bittersweet chocolate drifts into the air and more rye grain and rye spice well up into the breezes. There is also unfortunately some unwanted alcohol astringency and an off note of a woody bitterness drifting in the air as well.

In the Mouth 48.5/60

The first sip brings a spicy mixture of dry wood spice and sap which makes the whiskey seem a touch too bitter, and this bitterness both dries the mouth and puckers the palate. I can almost enjoy myself sipping; but there is not enough sweetness coming forward to balance the bitterness of the woody sap-like flavour. I find most straight whiskeys have a similar lightly bitter taste profile which I would describe as sharp and rough (a straight whiskey is one which has been barreled in fresh unused oak). This is because the fresh barrels used to mature the straight spirits impart strong woody flavours initially which need to be tempered with time. I find the rye and the lightly sweet caramel and maple flavours can get a little lost in the shuffle.

On the positive side, I found that if I let my glass sit and breathe, the rye comes back, bringing with it flavours of fresh rye grain, honeycomb, maple and bittersweet chocolate which fortunately serve to soothe the sharpness to some degree and provide some needed complexity. Unfortunately for me, the bitterness within this particular dram is not quelled to the point where sipping was preferred over mixing.

In the Throat 11.5/15

The whiskey exits with a sharp bite of wood spice and astringency, and a creeping burn of alcohol and spice builds in the back of the throat. There is a woody bitterness which builds with each sip. More sweet flavours in the finish would have been very welcome.

The Afterburn  8/10

As indicated earlier, my tasting notes for Bulleit Rye 95 Frontier Whisky (Bottled for the US market) were essentially the same notes as what I had written for the Bulleit Rye Frontier Whiskey (bottled for the Canadian Market). If you read the reviews side by side, they are essentially the same. Curious about this I contacted the Diageo Media team who sent me the sample, and after some checking they confirmed that there is essentially no difference in how the two whiskies are made.

You might be curious as to why, if the Bulleit Rye 95 and the Bulleit Rye Frontier Whiskey are essentially the same, did my score creep up just a little this time. The reason is simple, this time around I happened to like the whisky just a bit more. I suspect we can chalk this up to batch variation or perhaps myself becoming more accustomed to the taste profile of straight whiskey.

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


Suggested Recipe

Blinker SAM_2558Blinker Cocktail

2 oz Bulleit Rye Frontier Whiskey
1 oz Grapefruit Juice (fresh squeezed)
1/4 oz Cran-Raspberry Syrup (see recipe here)
Lemon Peel

Add the first four ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a twist of lemon peel (optional)

Please 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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