Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Whiskey Wednesday: No. 10 with a Bulleit

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 5:42 AM

Bulleit Bourbon out of Lawrenceburg, Ky., has earned a well-deserved reputation as a bartender's favorite. Both the orange-labeled bourbon and green-labeled rye are solid components of many a well-crafted cocktail. The high rye content of the bourbon contributes a spiciness to drinks that plays well with sweet-and-sour mixers. The 95 percent/5 percent mix of rye/barley in the green label is a wonderfully prototypical version of the traditional spirit that I often use to introduce new drinkers to the wonderful world of rye.

But these two products have been the entirety of the company's U.S. product line since 1999. Now it has finally made the leap into the world of premium bourbons that have a little more age on them with a new product, Bulleit 10. Unlike the orange label bourbon, which is bottled at 90 proof after at least six years in oak, Bulleit 10 is slightly hotter at 91.2 proof and is aged for at least a decade, thus the name.

The extra time in wood is immediately apparent on the nose, as a strong aroma of oak masks the more delicate maple and vanilla essences that characterize Bulleit. Give it a second to open up, and the oakiness will dissipate to reveal the caramel notes. At first taste, the flavors are more familiar to fans of Bulleit 10's little brother with the expected caramel and vanilla attacking the palate. But it's not long until the oaky tannins of the aging process start to dry out the sides of your tongue. It's not unpleasant and is certainly very different from most younger bourbons.

A lot of 10-year-old and older bourbons seek to try and smooth out the edges of the whiskey. Since many of them have higher wheat content thanks to that grain's ability to age a little more gracefully, the character of other premium whiskeys is much more muted. Bulleit 10 doesn't aim for the middle of the flavor zone.

Instead, it seeks to present a bolder version of the original, with the oaky tannins and sweet vanillins making for a unique upgrade to what is basically the same mash bill left in barrels a little longer and cut a little less before bottling. Is it worth $20 more per bottle than the standard orange label? Well, if you like to try smaller-batch unique whiskeys and are a fan of Bulleit, then sure. It's quite a fine bottle of whiskey, and I'd say it's in line with other offerings in the $40-$50 range.

Perhaps it suffers from the fact that Bulleit is already a great bargain in the orange label edition. If that product cost more than $25-$35, then maybe the difference wouldn't seem that great. But you can't fault them for selling a very good product at an affordable price, so give them both a try and find out for yourself.

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