Classification: Straight Rye
Release Date: Ongoing
Mashbill: 95% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
MSRP: $40 (2021)
Bulleit introduced 95 Rye Frontier Whiskey as a permanent line extension in 2011. Despite being produced by MGP Ingredients, Bulleit has a unique agreement with the company for them to produce the rye whiskey from their proprietary specifications. Bulliet has control over barrel maturation which is done at MGP and at Bulleit’s own warehouses. The oft used “95” in the name refers to the 95% rye in its mashbill, which at the time of its unveiling, was less common to see a rye whiskey in the U.S. with such high rye content in its mashbill.
Strawberry cream, dill, pine, and fresh muddled mint are soft and quite gentle with a peppery pop that follows. The nose features little in the way of surprises, yet the scents work well and their overall intensity will be quite pleasing to most. A touch of oak and additional sweetness further helps round out the aroma. Despite being largely straightforward, the nose is bright, lively, and very satisfying.
A pop of orange peel, followed by green tea, graham cracker, and minty pine open the palate with a bit of excitement. Mild molasses, brown sugar, and slight rye spice follow, providing necessary contrast. Much like the nose, the flavor profile borders on traditional, but finds a way to impress the more time you spend with it.
Oak ramps up in the finish, creating a dry aftertaste. The flavors from the palate drop off rather quickly and aren’t replaced but anything superior. A touch of leather, mild spice, and pepper linger, creating a tasting experience more in line with what you’d expect from a rye. Straightforward yet again, but this time it's more of a drawback compared to the rest of the sip, as the finish’s flavors just don’t have enough to offer to counter it.
Bulleit 95 Rye hit the market just before rye began to take off, and as a result for many rye drinkers and bartenders, it has become their de facto rye. Generally unassuming, it appears to go out of its way to be inoffensive, offering a flavor profile that is lighter, brighter, and sweeter than many other ryes in its price range.
Interestingly, the more time you spend with it, the whiskey sheds some of its straightforwardness, and reveals aspects that make it stand out from the pack. Its orange peel, green tea, graham cracker, and minty pine flavor profile becomes more pronounced and quite appetizing. At no time is it overly complex, but drinking against Tin Cup Rye, Rittenhouse Rye, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye, it ended up standing out. It probably won’t become my go-to rye, but I could definitely see it offering just enough to make it many other people’s everyday rye.
In the under $50 range, it's hard to have lofty expectations that the rye you’re purchasing is going to overly impress you. But that’s not to say these “value” ryes don’t have anything to offer either. Priced on the high side of many value ryes under $50, Bulleit 95 Rye borders on whether it wants to be a sipping rye or a premium mixing rye. The problem is it comes up short in both categories. It lacks necessary complexity to be a true contender as a sipping rye, and lacks true boldness as a mixing rye. With its deficiency of bold spice and fruit notes, it doesn’t quite have the gusto it needs as a mixing rye. I don’t doubt an amazing cocktail could be created specifically to take advantage of its standout traits, but that can be rather limiting. That said, while the rye does not excel in either category, it manages to dabble in both well enough, offering enough versatility at a fair price.
As one of the forebears of the modern rye scene, Bulleit 95 Rye has a degree of been-there-done-that vibe, it’s a straightforward rye with moments of excitement at a fair price.
It’s hard to get overly excited about Bulleit 95 Rye nowadays. As a staple in most stores and bars, it's always available if you want it, which leads to people either always having it, or completely ignoring it. As a sourced product from MGP, it's hard to blame someone for feeling that way. Yet, closer inspection reveals the whiskey’s virtues. Having a unique relationship with MGP allows Bulleit to create a more bespoke rye product from the company. It most likely won’t overly impress anyone, but there’s a chance it may surprise them, especially given the amount of rye whiskey on the market (many of which comes from MGP). Bulleit 95 Rye might not excel at anything it does, but what it does, it does just good enough.