Bulleit Rye 12-Year-Old

In light of recent allegations made by the daughter of Tom Bulleit of his homophobia and mental and physical abuse toward her, I have made the decision that BourbonGuy.com can no longer endorse products bearing the Bulleit name. The review below has been revised from the original version to reflect this new policy. New commentary has also been added.

I’d like to thank Taylor Strategy for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. All notes and thoughts are my own.

I am a big fan of the MGP 95% rye style of Rye Whiskey. I’ve been a fan since I first tasted Bulleit Rye shortly after it was released. In fact, it was the first rye that I ever really paid attention to. Other ryes just sorta tasted like bourbon but this one tasted different. And over the years, the MGP 95% rye style (of which Bulleit is but one of a number) is easily the most common rye to sit on my shelves. And now that I’ve found that it plays amazingly nice with Amaro Montenegro, I’m guessing it will be on my shelf even more often in the future.

So like I said, I’m a fan of the MGP 95% Rye style of rye whiskey. Some of my favorite aged rye whiskeys have been sourced from MGP. Willett used to put out beautiful 5-12 year old ryes that were the prize of my whiskey shelf (while they lasted). These days, even if they put one out, you couldn’t afford one without a trust fund.

So I was initially pretty excited when I got the press release stating that Bulleit would be releasing a limited edition 12-year-old version of their rye. Especially when I noticed that it was only going to be about $50. I was less excited to learn of the allegations of abuse and homophobia by the face of the brand. Previous to learning of these allegations, I had requested a sample of it and get a taste.

Bulleit Rye 12-Year-Old

Purchase info: This sample was graciously provided by Taylor Strategy for review purposes. It is available in Colorado, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Oregon, California, Kentucky, Texas, Georgia, New Jersey, Arizona, Massachusetts, Maryland and Washington D.C. Suggested retail price is $49.99.

Details: 95% rye mashbill. 12 year old age statement. 46% ABV

Nose: Mint, pipe tobacco, cinnamon, dill, caramel

Mouth: Spearmint, dill, tobacco, black pepper, anise

Finish: Of medium length. Lingering mint, black pepper and anise

Thoughts: MGP makes a fantastic whiskey. Luckily for me, there are options for the MGP 95% rye on the market that don’t involve the moral balancing act required by the Bulleit brand. On one hand, MGP rye is delicious, on the other I’d rather not continue to enrich a man alleged to have abused his own daughter over her sexuality. So, I will be seeking out this juice from other brands, you however are free to make your own choice in the matter.


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Bottom-Shelf Brackets 2019: Round 2: Wild Turkey 101 vs. Bulleit and Evan Williams Bottled in Bond vs. Old Forester Signature

In light of recent allegations made by the daughter of Tom Bulleit of his homophobia and mental and physical abuse toward her, I have made the decision that BourbonGuy.com can no longer endorse products bearing the Bulleit name.

This is it. Tonight we find out who will the final two spots of our semifinals round. Round 2 of the 2019 BourbonGuy.com Bottom Shelf Brackets continues with Division 2 Number 1 seed Wild Turkey 101 versus the advancing Number 5 seed Bulleit Bourbon. 

We’ve already met Bulleit, but to recap, it it is a sourced bourbon from Diageo. It used to be made of Four Roses juice but it is getting less and less likely that there is any left in the bottle since it has been five or six years since they were cut off. The other competitor is Wild Turkey 101. It is a product of Campari’s Wild Turkey distillery. And it is one of my favorite “everyday” bourbons. Let’s see who comes out on top.

These were tasted blind in the following order. Tasting notes are from before the reveal.

Wild Turkey 101

Purchase Info: $19.99 for a 1 liter bottle, Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 50.5% ABV.

Nose: Caramel, vanilla custard, cinnamon and a hint of mint.

Mouth: Sweet and spicy with mint and cinnamon.

Finish: Medium length, warm and sweet. Lingering cinnamon and vanilla custard.

Bulleit Bourbon

Purchase Info: $18.99 for a 750 mL bottle, Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 45% ABV.

Nose: Spearmint, toffee, cherry, cinnamon red hots.

Mouth: Spicy and sweet (though less sweet than number one) baking spice, toffee, and cherry.

Finish: Medium length. Lingering toffee and baking spice.

Pre-reveal Thoughts: Two very good whiskeys in this one but whiskey one wins this round. The spice is spicier. The sweet is sweeter It has more well-defined flavors. And it has a warmer and longer finish. Whiskey one is tastes like they took whiskey two and cranked up the volume.

Post Reveal Thoughts: Not shocked that Wild Turkey 101 won this round. The proof difference could easily explain the difference in “volume.”

Round 2 of the 2019 BourbonGuy.com Bottom Shelf Brackets concludes with Division 2 Number 2 seed Evan Williams Bottled in Bond versus the advancing Number 6 seed Old Forester Signature 100 proof.  

Old Forester Signature 100 proof is the plucky underdog here. Or is it? Though it was once a staple on my bourbon shelf, I’ve been passing on Evan Williams Bottled in Bond more and more lately. It has just started tasting too young to me. More grain-forward than I’d like. Especially when I can get the same size bottle of Wild Turkey 101 for just a dollar or two more.

These were tasted blind in the following order. Tasting notes are from before the reveal.

Old Forester Signature 100 Proof

Purchase Info: $24.99 for a 750 mL bottle, Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 50% ABV.

Nose: Honey, caramel, wintergreen, almond.

Mouth: Caramel, black tea, vanilla, clove and cinnamon.

Finish: Medium length and warm. Lingering caramel, apple, cinnamon and oak.

Evan Williams Bottled in Bond

Purchase Info: $17.99 for a 750 mL bottle, Viking Liquor Barrel, Prior Lake, MN

Details: 50% ABV.

Nose: Brown sugar, mint and vanilla.

Mouth: Caramel, mint and dried grain.

Finish: Medium length with lingering caramel, dried grains and cinnamon.

Pre-reveal Thoughts: Whiskey one wins this one hands-down. In my mind there is no contest. Whiskey two is way too grain forward by comparison.

Post Reveal Thoughts: No surprises here. Old Forester is a nice complex bourbon. It’s everything that I look for in a decently priced bourbon. By way of comparison, Evan Williams Bottled in Bond just isn’t as good as it used to be. I’ve noticed that about a lot of the Heaven Hill Bonded bourbons lately. Good, but not as good as they used to be. (Possibly because Heaven hill seems more interested in putting out new $100+ “prestige” bourbons like the new Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond than they are the lower-priced offerings that helped build their reputation.) Anyway EWBiB will work great in cocktails, but that is what this contest is about. Old Forester Signature advances.

And so the Championship Rounds are set! Old Grand-Dad Bonded versus Larceny and Wild Turkey 101 versus Old Forester Signature.


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Bottom-Shelf Brackets 2019: Round 1: Four Roses vs. Bulleit and Jim Beam Bonded vs. Old Grand-Dad Bonded

In light of recent allegations made by the daughter of Tom Bulleit of his homophobia and mental and physical abuse toward her, I have made the decision that BourbonGuy.com can no longer endorse products bearing the Bulleit name. If I had known of these allegations previous to this article, I would have not included their bourbon in the competition.

Round 1 of the 2019 BourbonGuy.com Bottom Shelf Brackets continues with Division 2 Number 4 seed Four Roses “Beige Label” Bourbon versus Number 5 seed Bulleit Bourbon. 

This is an interesting battle. For the longest time it was an open secret that Four Roses produced whiskey made up all or most of the bourbon in a bottle of Bulleit. But about five or six years ago, that all changed. Four Roses cancelled their contract to supply Diageo with bourbon and Bulleit began the slow transition to filling their bottles with bourbon from other manufacturers. So now that enough time has passed for Bulleit to have gotten most of the Four Roses juice through their pipeline, how does the entry-level Four Roses product compare to Bulleit now that these two companies have gone their separate ways.

These were tasted blind in the following order. Tasting notes are from before the reveal.

Bulleit Bourbon

Purchase Info: $18.99 for a 750 mL bottle, Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 45% ABV.

Nose: Oak, Toffee, Vanilla, cinnamon red hots.

Mouth: Spicy cinnamon, sweet vanilla, creme brûlée and a little oak

Finish: Medium length. Lingering cinnamon, oak and chocolate.

Four Roses Bourbon

Purchase Info: $21.99 for a 750 mL bottle, Viking Liquor Barrel, Prior Lake, MN

Details: 40% ABV.

Nose: Cinnamon, oak, black tea and a little mint.

Mouth: Thin mouthfeel. Cinnamon, black pepper and a hint of vanilla.

Finish: Very gentle. Lingering vanilla, mint, black pepper and Juicyfruit gum.

Pre-reveal Thoughts: This one is tough. The bourbons are of a very similar quality level so there isn’t a hands-down winner on the quality front. They both taste good. And honestly, I think one could be forgiven for choosing either of these as you personal winner. For me though, in this head to head matchup? I think Whiskey 1 edges its way to the winner’s circle.

Post Reveal Thoughts: Higher proof can often lend itself to higher complexity and a nicer mouthfeel. It does so in this case as the higher proof Bulleit Bourbon wins the chance to meetup with Wild Turkey 101 in Round 2.

And once again, in order to finish this competition sometime before summer, we are doing two in each post. So moving on to our second 4v5 matchup, we have Division 1 Number 4 seed Jim Beam Bonded versus Number 5 seed (and corporate cousin) Old Grand-Dad Bonded. 

This is also a super interesting matchup. It features the Bottled in Bond version of both of Jim Beam’s main bourbon recipes. Jim Beam and Old Grand-Dad are both BeamSuntory brands. Both are produced by Jim Beam at one of their two big distilleries in either Clermont or Boston, Kentucky. Old Grand-Dad is often touted as using Beam’s “High Rye” recipe. How much higher is it than the standard Beam recipe? Well the good folks over at ModernThirst.com have a handy, and sortable, table of all the known, assumed, and estimated bourbon mash bills. According to that Old Grand-Dad clocks in at 63% corn, 27% rye and 10% malted barley compared to Jim Beam’s 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% malted barley. So let’s see who wins head-to-head, shall we?

These were tasted blind in the following order. Tasting notes are from before the reveal.

Old Grand-Dad Bonded

Purchase Info: $23.99 for a 1 liter bottle, Blue Max, Burnsville, MN

Details: 50% ABV. DSP-KY-230.

Nose: Mint, toasted grains, caramel, oak, green tea.

Mouth: Mint, spicy cinnamon, oak and green tea.

Finish: On the longer side of medium and warm. Lingering mint, green tea and oak.

Jim Beam Bonded

Purchase Info: $21.49 for a 1 liter bottle, Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 50% ABV. DSP-KY-230.

Nose: Vanilla, cinnamon, corn, almond, and toffee.

Mouth: Oak, a generic “fruitiness,” cinnamon candies and caramel.

Finish: Medium length and warm. Lingering mint, corn, cinnamon candies and a hint of peanut.

Pre-reveal Thoughts: Whiskey 2 is a lot sweeter than whiskey 1. So this basically comes down to if you like your bourbon on the sweet and spicy side or the dry and spicy side of the equation. That’ll be a personal preference issue. For me, I choose whiskey 1 to advance. My wife went back and forth before agreeing with me.

Post Reveal Thoughts: This was much closer than I expected it to be. Going into the matchup, I expected that Old Grand-Dad would win this one hands down with no contest. It turns out that Old Grand-Dad did win, but it really close. And now they will face Fighting Cock in Round 2.


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Crown Royal Noble Collection: 13 Year Old Blender's Mash

I realized today, that I was still paying for an Audible.com subscription. I found a deal before I went on my last trip where I could get two books instead of the usual one for my initial month. I thought that would be great as it would allow me to put on the headphones and drown out noises that the kids were making. Worked great! Except I forgot to cancel and I ended up with another credit for a free audiobook. 

I'm a big fan of Ancient and Medieval Mediterranian History. Ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, Carthage, and the Phoenicians, as well as the Later Roman (Byzantine) Empire. Huge fan. Like, I read scholarly works and textbooks for fun type of fan. That said, I've never read Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I know that he got some things wrong and that he had certain biases, but I always figured that I would get around to it one day when I'd read enough to allow me to see through the cracks of the 200-year-old, 12-volume text. 

Tonight, since I had forgotten to cancel the subscription, I decided to get my money's worth for that unexpected credit and got the entire 126-hour, unabridged version of the book using my one credit. Not too bad for $16. And right afterward (since they allow you to keep access to your books even after you cancel) I canceled the subscription.

And speaking of getting my money's worth, I was very worried that tonight's whiskey was going to be the exact opposite of that. It is a 13-year-old Canadian Whiskey from Crown Royal. It is created from a mashbill of 60% Corn, 36% Rye, and 4% Malted Barley. It was aged in new, charred American Oak barrels. And if that sounds like a bourbon, know that if it had been distilled and aged 130 miles to the south, it would be. But after the fiasco of the Crown Royal Bourbon Mash release last year, they wisely chose to leave the word bourbon off of the packaging, calling it "Crown Royal Noble Collection: 13 Year Old Blender's Mash" instead. 

So though it is not legally Bourbon, how close is it and is a 13-year old Canadian "bourbon-ish" whiskey worth the $60 I paid for it?

Crown Royal Noble Collection: 13 Year Old Blender's Mash

Purchase Info: $57.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 45% ABV. This would be bourbon if it were distilled and aged 130 miles south of where it was. 60% Corn, 36% Rye, and 4% Malted Barley and aged in new, charred oak barrels for 13 years. 

Nose: Delicate and fruity with cherry Starburst® candy, mint and cinnamon. 

Mouth: The first sip starts delicate, but doesn't stay that way. The second sip brings a nice, thick mouthfeel, caramel, cherry, baking spice and hints of mint and oak. 

Finish: Medium length, but in a sneaky way. It fades quickly but then reappears a second or so later and hangs around for a bit with flavors of Cinnamon spice, mint and oak. 

IMAGE: a hand-drawn smiley face

Thoughts:  This is honestly the most "bourbon-like" Canadian whisky I've had. Which is why I keep stressing that this is bourbon in all but name. The price is higher than I would like but still lower than the prices of comparably aged bourbons these days. It has a good thick mouthfeel, complex flavors with nice spice and fruitiness. All in all, I like this one a lot and feel I got my money's worth on it. Maybe not as much as I did in the audiobook above, but this won't last 126 hours of constant use either. 


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!