Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The New Generation of Rye: Bulleit Rye


Rye whiskey is in a time of flux. It's probably more popular than it's been in a half century, but that popularity has positive and negative effects. On the plus side, there are new ryes coming out all the time. On the negative side, the stocks of aged rye are running low. Even standard expressions like Sazerac and Rittenhouse 100 go through periodic shortages and price increases. Meanwhile, Wild Turkey has announced that they are going to have shortages of their standard 101 proof rye for at least a year, which relates to their introduction of an 81 proof rye. Rye seems to be getting weaker, more expensive and harder to find.

To fill the rye gap, big companies have been coming out with new expressions. Beam recently released Knob Creek Rye, an extension of its popular Knob Creek line of bourbon, though it's not for sale in California yet.

Today, I'll sample another big rye. Bulleit Rye came out last year and seems to be seeing brisk sales. The Bulleit brand is owned by the drinks giant Diageo and the rye is distilled at Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI) using their 95% rye mashbill.

Based on what I see on shelves at both bars and homes, it seems that those who can't find their rye of choice are increasingly grabbing for Bulleit, a familiar brand to those who enjoy the bourbon of the same name.

Affordably priced at around $20 ($19.99 at Trader Joe's), Bulleit Rye carries no age statement. It's priced to compete directly with the other popular ryes and seems to be popular with the cocktail crowd as well.


Bulleit Rye, 45% abv ($20)

The nose is pure LDI with loads of pine and green wood. The palate comes on sweet and piney, like a sugar coated pine cone, or what I imagine one would taste like anyway, having never dipped a pine cone in sugar and started munching on it. That first flavor burst is nice, but it doesn't hold up; the palate goes flat midway through, ending on a bitter note. The finish is mostly bitter but there is a pleasant cooking spice in the background, and eventually the bitterness recedes and you are left with the pleasant spice and a happy feeling.

This is a big fat rye, and being a 95% LDI rye, it's quite different in character from the Kentucky ryes that are in short supply. It's imperfect, but it's bold and spicy, and for $20, it's hard to beat if you need a solid rye for sipping or mixing.


20 comments:

sam k said...

This whiskey has generated more conversation than any I've ever passed around. I like it quite a bit, and with WT 101 disappearing, it will probably become my go-to rye for the foreseeable future. Tom Bulleit claims that there'll be no shortages associated with this bottling. Good news.

Jordan Devereaux said...

I had a rather healthy glass of Bulleit rye yesterday evening and I have to agree with your assessment. It's definitely rye, but little else stands out about it. I guess more options are better, but given that the Rittenhouse shortage seems to be waning, Bulleit rye is in a tough place. It doesn't have as much character, but it can't compete on price. Especially here in Oregon where it's regularly $28, which is Sazerac and Russell's Reserve territory.

Anonymous said...

Though they are both likely from the same LDI mash bill, I prefer the Willett 3 YR Single Barrel rye over Bulleit in the ryes that I can actually get these days. Rye product has definitely been in short supply. Willett also comes in at a higher alcohol content for only a couple dollars more in this area. Like Jordan, Bulleit definitely does not sell for $20 in FL and is more like $28. Rittenhouse is still my preferred when I can get it. Have to rely on friends on family to bring it south.

Tom said...

In regards to value, I agree that this is a solid base whiskey, particularly for cocktails. I usually end up spending a little more (35ish) and get jefferson's 10 year, which has a great rye flavor with a fantastic sweeter influence from the extra age. I'm not sure how well circulated this release is though.

Jordan Devereaux said...

A big second on what Tom said. Once you get up around $30, it's worth paying the extra couple of dollars for Jefferson 10 Year. It blows every rye I've tried short of the BTAC ryes out of the water and it's less than half the price of those whiskies (when you can actually find them).

SteveBM said...

Just had a few Bulliet ryes in the SkyClub at ATL yesterday. I'm not too fond of Bulliet bourbon but the rye has some characteristics that I like, grainy, floral, pleasant spice to name a few. I like your "piney" description too. It's usually $25 down here in the Miami area. Not bad. I tend to enjoy LDI bottlings, namely Redemption Rye and the Williet 3yr & 5yr.

Question - when Midwest Grain purchased LDI, did they keep the name LDI intact? Or should we all be referring to this producer as MGP?

Anonymous said...

Good point, SteveBM. When you try to go to the old LDI web site it routes you to the new MGP site.

Jason Beatty said...

It's no longer LDI. I have inside enough that I swore not to tell as I live nearby. All I can say is my personal buying... I will make sure to buy only pre-Midwest Grain whiskey as I focus strictly on quality and make up a very small percentage of the buying market.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Will stock up on any Willett and such now, don't really drink that much of it, with what is in the distribution chain and will see how things with LDI/MGP products shake out down the road. Good information to know. May not mean any changes, however, one never knows.

Anonymous said...

http://chuckcowdery.blogspot.com/2011/10/mgp-acquires-ldi-distillery.html

sevens said...

why do LDI ryes differ so much from Kentucky ryes? is it this particular 95% rye mashbill or does the difference stem from distillation/aging differences?

Anonymous said...

Rye whiskey must be made from a mash of at least 51% rye. Far from the 95% mash used by LDI/MGP in this particular product. One of the reasons I prefer Rittenhouse over Willett, though I drink both. You can definitely notice the difference and influence on the final product in the quantity of rye used.

sku said...

That's right. The main difference is mashbill. The Kentucky ryes are, for the most part, 51% rye, the rest corn, making the mashbill very similar to bourbon. LDI has several mashbills, but the 95% rye has far more rye and no corn, giving it a much spicier disposition.

BMc said...

It should be noted that the LDI recipe was designed for blending. I love the Willetts and like the Bulleit rye quite a bit, but it's amusing that the big gap in the rye world is being filled by a watered down blending whiskey. It just happens to be world class, in my opinion.

The butterscotch notes in the 5 year Willett are reaaaaally nice. I'd love to have a 10-12 year LDI product to see what happens to all those forceful rye flavors over time, mixed with barrel influence.

sku said...

BMc, the limited release High West 12 year old was a 12 year LDI 95% rye and it was superb. The rye was as strong as ever. That stuff has staying power.

Jason Beatty said...

KBD has a 6 Year Willett Rye at 110 proof and it is out of this world! If you get some fellers together, I could make a run down there for ya on the weekend before work. If it's not already sold out.

sam k said...

BMc,

What sort of whiskey do you think that :LDI rye was to be blended into?

Sam

sevens said...

Does anyone have any idea what the mashbill for Rittenhouse is? What exactly is the "classic Pennsylvania style" rye that I see so many people refer to when speaking of rittenhouse? How does that style compare with Kentucky and LDI?

sku said...

From what I understand (and maybe Sam K. will comment as he's the expert on this), the classic PA rye was a blend of malted and unmalted rye. By the twentieth century, it was unmalted rye with a small amount of malted barley, so really the LDI mashbill is quite similar.

Rittenhouse was formerly a PA rye, but now it is, of course, owned by Heaven Hill. I don't know that they have said for certain but I believe all of the KY ryes are around 51% rye with the rest corn and a bit of barley.

BMc said...

Sam, I first read it here:

http://chuckcowdery.blogspot.com/2011/03/my-rye-whiskey-epiphany.html

In that article Chuck states that it was created for Seagram's 7. I've read elsewhere that LDI, or the former LDI, still sold the rye to Diageo after they acquired the Seagram's label. If true, it could be in a ton of Canadian whiskeys.