Bulleit Rye: Revisited

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. An update has been added to reflect this change.

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."

Update:

Actually, it turns out that there may be a reason to not have this on your shelf. 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 physically 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 Bourbon Brackets 2018: The Championship Rounds

Well, it's finally here. The championship rounds. This year was an interesting one for me on a couple of levels. For one, it was the first year that had guest judges. I have an idea that I may expand it further next year. This feels like it could be a fun party game for whiskey folk, provided the sips are restricted and everyone has a driver. Secondly, it is also the first year that I didn't restrict the competition to bourbon. I included corn whiskey and rye whiskey and sort of expected that corn would fold and rye would reign supreme. I was sorta right on the corn whiskey, it was a little too delicate to win against the flavorful rye, but it was no pushover. 

So now here we are. We are at the Last Four (Final Four being a registered trademark of a very litigious entity, there is no way I will use those two words together in a bracket post...): Old Grand Dad Bonded vs Two Stars and Old Forester vs Ezra Brooks Rye. Three bourbons and a rye. Let's see if rye reigns supreme or if bourbon can hold on to the odds. 

Division 1, Round 2: Two Stars (A) vs Old Grand-Dad Bonded (B)

Nose: Whiskey A is drier with more grain present while whiskey B is sweeter but shows a bit more alcohol. Winner: Draw.

Mouth: Whiskey B is sweeter but also shows a lot more grain notes. Whiskey A is more of a well-integrated whole, though it is a tad more delicate. Winner Whiskey A.

Finish: The finish on Whiskey A is a bit harsher and drier. Whiskey B is really good though and it has no obvious plusses or minuses to it.Winner Whiskey B. 

Thoughts: I'd say that Whiskey B wins this one on the strength of a better mouthfeel and a much tastier finish. Old Grand-Dad Bonded is moving on. 

Division 2, Round 2: Ezra Brooks Rye (A) vs Old Forester (B)

Nose: Whiskey A has a spicy ginger note while Whiskey B is pretty generic with sweet caramel.  Winner: Whiskey A.

Mouth: Whiskey A is spicy and fun but a bit thin. Whiskey B is sweet and spicy with a nice mouthfeel. It is close but the Winner is Whiskey A

Finish: Whiskey A shows ginger and citrus while Whiskey B is sweet and fruity. This comes down to personal taste. Winner: Whiskey A.

Thoughts: This one is tough. I adore the fun aspects of Whiskey A. I think it is bright and vibrant and I'm digging the citrus notes. On the other hand, I really like the sweet flavors, the nice mouthfeel, and the fruity finish of Whiskey B. Gun to my head? Winner: Ezra Brooks Rye. 

Championship Round: Old Grand-Dad Bonded (A) vs Ezra Brooks Rye (B)

Nose: Whiskey B is a spicy soda, Whiskey A is a dusty rickhouse. Winner: Draw.

Mouth: Whiskey A is sweet with a lovely mouthfeel. Whiskey B is spicy with a ginger ale flavor. Winner: Draw

Finish: Whiskey A is long with more sweetness. Whiskey B is also long, but is spicy. Winner: Draw.

Thoughts: Sometimes the tasting notes of bloggers make it look like we value the individual parts of a whiskey more than the whole. Though these two whiskeys are different, I liked them both, just in different ways. I like the spiciness of Whiskey B and I like the lovely mouthfeel of Whiskey A. There was a draw on every indiviual metric. And, though it was really close, when taken as a whole the Winner is Old Grand-Dad Bonded. 

Lessons learned

So was I shocked by anything this year? Not really. I was surprised that Old Forester beat Four Roses for every participant, but not enough to call it shocking. I was mildly surprised that a four seed beat a one seed, but when you notice that it is rye vs corn whiskey it is less surprising. Going into the final rounds I had guessed that Old Forester could very possibly be my winner, but wasn't shocked that a rye whiskey beat a bourbon. Even if it was only two years old.

Overall, I thought that there could very possibly be five winners in the initial grouping. I wouldn't have been surprised at any of Old Grand-Dad, Old Forester, Four Roses, Ezra Brooks and I thought that Mellow Corn had an outside shot. Because I worried that the seeding worked against them I went ahead and tried an alternate seeding. I put all the bourbon on one side and matched corn vs corn and rye vs rye on the other. Ezra Brooks beat Old Overholt and Mellow Corn defeated Hirsch, with Ezra Brooks rye still advancing to the finals. On the Bourbon side, Old Grand Dad beat Four Roses on the strength of a good mouthfeel and Old Forester beat Two Stars. Old Grand Dad then defeated Old Forester and advanced to the finals where the result was the same. Overall, I'm satisfied that the best whiskey (for my palate)won.


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Bottom-Shelf Brackets 2018: Other people's brackets

So one of the things I did this year to shake things up was to introduce more judges to this project. In the past, it has been just my wife and I and if we disagreed, I'd overrule her due to the fact that I do all the writing. Now I was not able to get everyone together in time to get started on these so I was unable to use their input in the initial rounds. 

And now that I think about that, I think this is a good thing. This is a blog that is run by my wife and I and it reflects our palates. Plus, as you will see, everyone so far has chosen a different winner. But, there are a few commonalities in the results that I think you will find interesting. So let's begin.

This is the bracket of my friend Dave. He was the inspiration for this experiment because he asked if he could be a part of it. He knows almost nothing about whiskey that I haven't taught him but he is an enthusiastic amateur. I did the pouring for Dave's bracket. So one interesting thing that I think you will see is that Old Overholt was Dave's winner. I've described Old Overholt as one of the gentlest rye whiskeys that I'd found. And I think that it makes sense that an inexperienced whiskey drinker would like a whiskey that wasn't overly hot and aggressive. In fact, you'll notice that most of the whiskeys that made it to his last four were fairly nonaggressive whiskeys. A corn whiskey beat a rye, a low proof beat a high proof on a couple of occasions, and then there is Old Forester where he had a hard time choosing between the two.

This is the bracket of one of my dog sitting clients, Jeff. Jeff is a guy who likes whiskey but mostly sticks to the brands he knows. Jeff administered his own test which is why everything is labeled with a letter instead of a name, all the seeds are in the same location though. In this case, Old Grand-Dad beat Old Overholt, Two Stars beat Hirsch Corn, Ezra Brooks Rye beat Mellow Corn and Old Forester beat Four Roses. I haven't finished my bracket yet, but so far mine matches this one. And if you were to ask me how I thought my bracket might finish out, I can see similarities between his and mine. I'm a bit shocked that Two Stars beat out Old Grand-Dad, but hey Barton/Sazerac makes some pretty good juice. Oh, and for Jeff, Old Forester won. 

This is my wife's bracket. She and I disagreed on whether Mellow Corn should beat Ezra Brooks Rye so I had her finish her bracket based on her scenario. Once again I administered the contest for her. As you will see, there are some similarities between the previous three, Everyone likes Two Stars more than the Hirsch Corn whiskey and Everyone liked Old Forester better than Four Roses. In fact, Old Forester was in the championship for every one of these three. It sort of makes me wonder if my bracket will follow suit? I guess we will see next Tuesday.

Now, this last one is from Pat, one of my wife's coworkers. Pat also administered his own test. And Pat went a different way than anyone else. Unbeknownst to Pat, he seems to be a fan of rye whiskey. And he found this fascinating since he hadn't had very much rye before. From what I understand, he is going to be remedying that in the future. Even so, I can see the Ezra Brooks Rye winning this. It is a good and flavorful whiskey that even at two years old, brings a lot of flavor to the party. 

So I hope you found this as fascinating as I did. I liked seeing the trends among people. All of us liked Old Forester over Four Roses, which I didn't expect from me much less anyone else. It was split evenly between those who preferred Mellow Corn and those who preferred Ezra Brooks Rye. Only one person thought that the Hirsch Corn was better than Two Stars. And yet even with that, they all chose a different winner. I'm very curious now to know which one will win on my bracket. 


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Bottom-Shelf Brackets 2018: Round 1c: Ezra Brooks Rye vs. Mellow Corn

Round 1c of the 2018 BourbonGuy.com Bottom Shelf Brackets features number 1 seed Mellow Corn Bottled in Bond Corn Whiskey versus Number 4 seed Ezra Brooks Rye. 

Mellow Corn is a product of Heaven Hill Brands. It is a bottled-in-bond product, meaning it is the product of one distilling season, bottled at exactly 100 proof and was aged for at least 4 years. As this is corn whiskey, it is made from at least 80 percent corn in the mash recipe and was aged in either uncharred or used barrels. It is a number one seed due to its high proof.

Ezra Brooks Rye is a product of Luxco. It is a sourced whiskey that is assumed to have been distilled at the MGPi distillery in Indiana. It is a two-year-old rye. It is the youngest whiskey in the contest and as such is a number four seed. 

These were tasted blind in the following order. My thoughts on each are from before the reveal.

Mellow Corn

Purchase Info: $11.88 for a 1L bottle at Blue Max Liquor, Burnsville, MN

Details: 50% ABV, non-age stated.

Produced by: Heaven Hill Brands

Nose: Buttery popcorn, spearmint, a touch of cinnamon, and after a while strawberry oatmeal. 

Mouth: Warm and spicy. Cinnamon and honey. 

Finish: Medium and warm. Lingering dried grain notes. A touch of bitterness. 

Pre-Reveal Thoughts: Nice and warm. Good spice. Only slight knock on it is a slightly dried grain note on the finish that doesn't agree with me.

Ezra Brooks Rye

Purchase Info: $17.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Eagan, MN.

Details: 45% ABV.

Produced by: Luxco (Assumed MGPi)

Nose: Strong mint and ginger ale. 

Mouth: Thinner in the mouth than the last one. Mint and ginger spice.

Finish: Flavorful finish. A "Blossom" of flavor after swallowing. Mint, cinnamon, and ginger. 

Pre-Reveal Thoughts: Just the opposite of the last one. This has a pretty mild mouth, but a fun finish. 

Who wins?

So, Mellow Corn is sweet baked good on the nose while Ezra Brooks Rye is a spicy soda. This is a draw on the nose. Mellow Corn has a nicer mouthfeel while Ezra Brooks Rye has a more pleasantly flavorful finish. This is the hardest matchup in the contest. These are both good and to be honest my wife and I both chose a different winner. After sitting on this for most of a week I have to declare a winner based soley on the finish. Winner: Ezra Brooks Rye.


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Remus Repeal Reserve

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 Gregory White PR for providing this sample to me with no strings attached.

Seventy-second Congress of the United States of America;
At the Second Session,

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Monday, the fifth
day of December, one thousand nine hundred and thirty-three

--

JOINT RESOLUTION
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

--

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is hereby proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by conventions in three-fourths of the several States:

"Article —

"SECTION 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

"SECTION 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

"SECTION 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress."


And so 84 years ago today the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, and National Prohibition, was repealed. All in all, it is a short piece of law. The introduction is longer than the Amendment itself. What it lacked in size, it made up for in consequence. First and foremost, it allowed the Federal Government to get out of the way of a citizen's ability to have a drink. There were, of course, other consequences. The one most pertinent to tonight's post is that it also allowed the murderous scofflaws and bootleggers of the Prohibition era to fade into the sort of romanticized characters of history that only the distance of time can allow. People such as George Remus. A pharmacist, a bootlegger, lawyer and a murderer. 

Remus was a pharmacist turned Chicago criminal defense lawyer. In Daniel Okrent's book: Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition Remus is described as having an inside look at the workings of Prohibition and the amount of money that could be made outside the law. His plan was rather more complicated than a smash and grab though. He ended up buying both distillery stocks and brands (including brands such as Fleischmann's and Jack Daniel's) as well as a pharmacy where he could sell the stocks as a medicinal product. 

He would legally withdraw the bourbon from the bonded warehouse and on the way to his pharmacy, the trucks would sometimes be hijacked. Of course, they were hijacked by his own men. Now, why would he divert the booze into an illegal market when he had the ability to profit from both the sale of the liquor to his pharmacy as well as to the public? Well, that's pretty easy when you think of why he got into it in the first place. The profits are higher on the black market since there are no taxes to be paid on it.

On May 17, 1922, the New York Times published that Remus was charged with conspiring to violate prohibition laws and he and 13 others were sentenced to an Atlanta jail for a year and a day to two years (depending on the defendant). Okrent states that it was a posh cell, decorated with flowers where he was waited on by servants. During his time behind bars, his wife took up with another man and together the two of them burned through the vast fortune that Remus had accumulated (some stories say this was the agent who put Remus behind bars, some say it was an undercover agent in the prison where Remus was serving time who learned of his story and took advantage of the situation).

In either case, the newspaper reports state that his wife's affair drove him temporarily insane. Long enough to have his chauffer chase down the car she was driving in so he could shoot her in front of her daughter from a previous marriage. Of course, even in the initial reports from the trials, there seems to be at least the idea that what really ticked him off was the loss of the money. For this crime, he was committed to an insane asylum for a very short time (somewhere around three weeks) before he then "proved" that he was no longer crazy and was released. 

After that, he lived in Cincinnati for the rest of his life and seems to have lived on the correct side of the law as far as I can find. Today, he gets mentioned when people talk about Prohibition but seems to have been otherwise forgotten. Maybe that will change now that MGPi has released their Remus Repeal Reserve to go along with their George Remus Bourbon. It celebrates Remus, though he is probably not the type of person who should have been celebrated, by putting his name in big letters on the top of the bottle. It also celebrates Repeal Day as it accomplishes it's full roll-out today. 

The bourbon is 94 proof and is made up of three different MGP bourbons (for once, this isn't sourced since it is put out directly by MGPi). It is 50% Bourbon distilled in 2005 with their 21% rye recipe. It is 15% Bourbon distilled in 2006 from their 36% rye recipe. And it is 35% Bourbon distilled in 2006 with their 21% rye recipe. And it is 100% delicious. 

Remus Repeal Reserve

Purchase Info: This bottle was provided as a review sample at no cost to me. It is available locally and I have confirmed that Surdyk's has it for $75. The suggested retail price is $74.99 and it will be sold in Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Details: 47% ABV. A blend of 21% and 36% rye bourbons distilled in 2005 and 2006.

Nose:  Mint, clove, rye bread, and oak.

Mouth: Dry and spicy in the mouth with cinnamon and clove, rye bread and mint.

Finish: On the long side of medium. Lingering cinnamon with rye spices.

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Thoughts: This is a deliciously spicy bourbon. I adore the predominant cinnamon and spice notes. I like this very much. Though I don't know that I would like it's namesake all that much. A dude supposed to uphold the law, who then breaks it and then even kills his wife over it...yeah...not so much.


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