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Bulleit Rye: Revisited

Posted on by Eric Burke

It has been two thousand, one hundred, thirty-seven days since I last published a review of Bulleit Rye. It was so long ago that I was still writing posts about the new additions to my whiskey stash (often without reviews). It was my sixth ever official post (fifteenth overall) and only the third instance of the hand-drawn review symbols that have become a mainstay of the site ever since. It was also the first review to earn a "love" rating. Back then I had this to say about it: 

"For the price of this whiskey, there is no reason for it to not always be on your shelf. It works great in cocktails and I love to drink it neat. Inexpensive, tasty and versatile."

So almost 6 years ago, I thought that this was the bee's knees. The best rye I'd had. And even at that early date, I'd had quite a few different ryes. Something about that 95% rye mash bill made me very happy. Even now, I tend to prefer the MGP Indiana-style rye over all others. Kentucky Ryes are just spicy bourbon. Canadian 100% ryes can be good, but these days it feels like they are either under-proofed or overpriced. I haven't had enough of the "Rye Mash with Malted Rye" style 100% Rye to make a firm judgment, but the ones I've had so far have been more interesting than good.

It is safe to say that over the years, this has been the most common rye to hit my shelves. I use it in cocktails, I drink it neat, and I use it in blending experiments (which only makes sense since it was originally developed as a component of a blended whiskey). But one thing I haven't done for almost 6 years is sit down and do a thoughtful tasting of it. I'm curious how my palate has shifted in the intervening years.

Bulleit Rye

Purchase Info: $24.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Viking Liquor Barrel, Prior Lake, MN

Details: MGP distilled. 95% Rye Mash. 45% ABV.

Nose: Mint, cherry, and pipe tobacco. 

Mouth: Spicy with mint, dill, cherry, and pipe tobacco.

Finish:  Medium length with lingering spice, mint, and cherry. 

 Image: A smiley face.

Thoughts: This is the first Revisited whiskey that I have downgraded the rating on. It's not that I like it any less than I did six years ago, I've just raised the bar for those that I "love." It's interesting how little the notes on this whiskey have changed for me. I still get cherry and pipe tobacco. A combination, it is safe to say, I have never gotten on another whiskey. Yet I got it here almost 6 years apart. That is a testament to the prowess of both MGP and Diageo. I really like this one. And honestly, I'll repeat my message from six years ago, tortured grammar and all: "For the price of this whiskey, there is no reason for it to not always be on your shelf."


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Drinking Distilled: A User's Manual by Jeffrey Morgenthaler

Posted on by Eric Burke

You may have heard that last weekend, almost a foot of snow fell in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. I'm not suspecting that it made your local news, but the howls from the residents were loud enough that they were probably heard at least a couple states away. Now all my neighbors decided, even though the plows were staying home, that they needed to try to keep their driveway cleared of snow.  

I, on the other hand, had the good sense to realize that since the snow wasn't going anywhere, and the plows weren't going anywhere, then neither was I. Plus with the blizzard conditions outside, there was the off chance that if I put off getting the snowblower out that some of that nasty white stuff might just end up in the neighbor's yard. So instead of burning gasoline in a futile attempt to beat nature, I decided to curl up with a good book. Luckily, a good book had arrived earlier in the week. 

Drinking Distilled by Jeffrey Morgenthaler is a short, though highly entertaining look at drinking distilled spirits. The book is structured as to give advice to the drinker and is divided into four sections. "General Information," which covers topics from toasting to glassware to barfing is the first section. Following that is "What You're Drinking" which gives a little background various spirits and cocktails. It's entertaining, even if it does spread the misinformation that bourbon needs to be over two years old. The third and fourth sections are "When You're Drinking" and "Where You're Drinking" which combine to give advice, cocktails, and proper edicate for various times and places you might be having a drink.

All in all this is a fun book. It is a quick read (I did it in the course of one afternoon while ignoring the snowstorm outside) and extremely entertaining. Heck, you might even learn something...just not how long bourbon needs to age (for the record there is no minimum age for bourbon, though I really wish we'd follow along with the rest of the world and their three year minimum).


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Ask Arok: Single Barrel is not the same as Barrel Proof

Posted on by Eric Burke

I got a comment on my last post (Rebel Yell Single Barrel) from MadHatter: 

Which begs the question: If this is a single barrel and unless the barrel contents were exactly 50 abv, why did they water it down to 50 abv?

I like this question. Not just because I know the answer, but because it is always good for me to remember that the audience for this site is not just experienced connoisseurs of bourbon. There are a bunch of people reading this who are just starting out on their bourbon journey. And to them, I say: "Welcome! The bar is in the corner, pour yourself a drink of something nice."

So let's break down MadHatter's question. The way I see it there are two parts:

  1. Is this really a single barrel bourbon and was the barrel proof exactly 100° proof?
  2. Why would they dilute it to 50% ABV if it didn't come out of the barrel that way?

So let's address the first part. I can tell you all with reasonable confidence that the Rebel Yell Single Barrel is actually a single barrel product. Not only because it says it on the label, but because last year I had bourbon from two different barrels side-by-side and though similar, they were noticeably different from one another. Also, I can assure you that the contents of the barrels used for Rebel Yell Single Barrel were almost certainly not all exactly 100° proof, because that would take a string of good luck that is pretty inconceivable. But just for the sake of completeness, I reached out to the company for comment. The following is from Head Distiller John Rempe by way of my contact at their PR agency:

"Yes, Rebel Yell Single Barrel is a legitimate single barrel bourbon. ... [We] dump each barrel independently and cut it to 100 proof, it is not a barrel proof product."

There now that the conspiracy theorists are satisfied (I kid, I kid... conspiracy theorists are never satisfied) we can move on to the second part of the question. But before we do, let's just lay out an underlying fact: single barrel bourbon and barrel proof bourbon are not the same thing, they are separate descriptors. Though there is no legal definition of either, they are generally held to mean the following: 

  • Single Barrel Bourbon: The product of a solitary barrel of bourbon, that has been dumped independently from other barrels, and then bottled as its own product.
  • Barrel-Proof Bourbon:  Bourbon that has not been diluted with water before bottling. 

Yes, some single barrel products are released at barrel strength. Jack Daniel's has one and most of the Four Roses Single Barrel private picks are barrel-proof. But most single barrel bourbons are not released at barrel-strength. Just think of Blanton's at 93 proof, Jim Beam Single Barrel at 95 proof, Evan Williams Single Barrel at 86 proof, Four Roses Single Barrel at 100 proof, Old Forester single barrel at 90 proof...I could go on and on, but I won't. Let's just keep it simple and say that a single barrel bourbon does not have to be barreled at barrel proof.

But as to why Luxco (and every other major producer of Kentucky Bourbon) dilutes their single barrel products? For the same reasons as they dilute all their other products. They either think it tastes best at that proof or they can make more money at that proof. More than likely it is some combination of the two. It tastes good at 90 or 100 proof and they can get more bottles out of a barrel that way. There may even be some tax incentives to bottle it at non-barrel strength. I can assure you, whiskey dilution makes a huge difference in the taste of the final product and companies that are trying to put out a premium product do not undertake it lightly. 

Do you have a bourbon question you'd like answered? Just get in contact with me using one of the icons in the sidebar to submit one. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll try to find it from someone who does.


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Rebel Yell Single Barrel: 2018 edition

Posted on by Eric Burke

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. Please consider it disclosed. I’d like to thank Common Ground PR for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. 

I got a new oven today. I'm not terribly happy about it. See I liked my old oven. It was full of bells and whistles that made life easier. Of course, the part that broke was the very part that controlled all those bells and whistles. And it would have been a significant portion of the purchase price to get it fixed. 

So I got a new oven. And even though it isn't quite as good as the old one used to be, it is infinitely better than the old one has been for the last two weeks since the new one does such fancy things as heat up and cook food.

I'm pretty sure there is some sort of life lesson there. I put off getting a new oven for two weeks because I couldn't find one that I liked as much as the last one. Finally, I just picked one. It isn't perfect, but as they say, the perfect can be the enemy of the good.

I've never had a perfect bourbon. Mostly because I have no idea how I would define such a thing. I have had very good bourbons, however. And tonight's bourbon is a fine example of that. I'm pretty sure this bourbon will not be as good as my old oven...I loved that thing. But I'm almost positive I will like it more than the new oven.

Rebel Yell Single Barrel, 2018 

Purchase Info: Common Ground PR provided this sample. Suggested retail price is $59.99.

Details: Barrel#: 5083254. Aged since September 2006. 50% ABV.

Nose: Brown sugar, oak, cherry and under it all are hints of wintergreen.

Mouth:  Nice warmth with good spiciness. Red fruits, caramel, worn leather and baking spices.

Finish: Warm and on the longer side of medium. Dry with lingering baking spice.

 Image: smiley face

Thoughts: Another very good release from the line of Rebel Yell Single Barrels. I'll be looking to grab a bottle when it hits shelves.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!

Rebel Yell Bourbon: Revisited

Posted on by Eric Burke

It has been fourteen hundred, sixty-eight days since I last published tasting notes of Rebel Yell Bourbon. It has been seven hundred, seventy days since I proclaimed Rebel Yell one of the five worst American Whiskeys I've had. The first time it appeared on the blog I noted: 

I have no idea what I will do with this bottle, but I certainly won’t be drinking it. My wife has been bugging me to give her bourbon to use in a homemade bug repellant recipe. This might be fine for that. 

The second time I proclaimed it one of the five worst whiskeys I'd tasted and said: 

Eventually I did find a use for it. It became “Prop Bourbon.” When I need to take a photo for a review, but already finished the bottle, I pour my prop bourbon into the empty bottle for the photo. Afterward I dump it back into the Rebel Yell bottle and stick it back in the closet.

Crazy thing happened to that prop whiskey, I tried it in a cocktail. It wasn't bad. I tried it in a couple more. Still not bad. Of course, by this time, it was no longer straight Rebel Yell. Other bad whiskeys having joined it in some sort of unholy infinity bottle. But, it got me to thinking that, since I drink a lot more cocktails now than I did when I posted the original review, it might be time to go back and take another look at this one. Especially since I have liked most of the other expressions that use the name. Heck, they redid the branding, maybe they've gotten their hands on better whiskey to put into the blend as well.

Rebel Yell Bourbon

Purchase Info: $15.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN.

Details: 40% ABV. Non-age stated. 

Nose: Bran muffin, almond, wintergreen and fleeting hints of melon.

Mouth: Sweet. Almond, pepper, and baking spice.

Finish: On the shorter side of medium. Pretty dry with dried grain notes. 

Thoughts: This is not as bad as I remember. I know, damning with faint praise. But seriously. The bottle I reviewed in 2014 might still be one of the worst I've tasted, but this one does not taste like that. In fact, if it wasn't for the dry, dried grain note finish, this would be an enjoyable sip. As it is, it works well as a mixer when you want to use a sweeter bourbon and don't want to break the bank. I'm upgrading this from dislike to meh and wouldn't fault fans of wheated bourbon (I tend not to be) for liking it more than I do.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!