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.