Bulleit Bourbon is one of the most well-known and successful Bourbon brands on the market. In fact, Bulleit recently sold its 1,000,000th case. And they aren't just known for their Bourbon either. In addition to being the fastest-growing non-flavored North American whiskey, Bulleit Rye is also the best-selling rye in the United States. We recently caught up with Kevin Didio, manager of Bulleit's Kentucky Visitor Experience, to find out a little more about Bulleit's history and what makes their brand so successful.
Bourbon & Barns: How did Bulleit get its start in the 1830s? When did it close?
Kevin Didio: According to the Bulleit family legend, Tom’s great-great grandfather made a high-rye bourbon in the 1800s. He supposedly disappeared one day while transporting barrels of bourbon to New Orleans in 1860, but no one knows what happened to him. The legend of the high-rye bourbon survived throughout the years, and that’s what inspired Tom to create Bulleit Bourbon.
BB: How did Thomas E. Bulleit, Jr. decide to reopen the distillery in 1987?
KD: Tom grew up in the Kentucky bourbon community and had dreamed of starting his own whiskey company that revived the old family recipe. After serving in the Vietnam War and starting his own successful law practice, Tom finally decided to follow that dream in 1987. The business started with Tom selling Bulleit by hand for nearly 10 years before partnering with Seagram’s, now Diageo. Hard work, persistence and great whiskey helped build the company to what it is today.
BB: How big is the operation today?
KD: Bulleit recently reached the one million case mark and we’re proud to say that Bulleit Bourbon is the fastest-growing non-flavored North American Whiskey and Bulleit Rye is the bestselling rye in the U.S.
BB: Every bottle of Bulleit is described as “Frontier Whiskey.” What does this mean?
KD: Bulleit Frontier Whiskey was inspired by the pioneering spirit shared between Tom Bulleit and the legend of his great-great grandfather. Tom’s frontier was leaving his job as a successful lawyer to create a whiskey company. The frontier isn’t a physical place, but instead is a shared spirit among people exploring a path of their own.
BB: Where are the Bulleit whiskey products made? Are they made at the Stitzel-Weller facility or an another location?
KD: Bulleit Bourbon is made in Kentucky and Bulleit Rye is made just across the state border in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. They are distilled by our fantastic partners who have worked to provide consistently great products using the best ingredients available. We age our bourbon at the historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery and our new warehouses at The Bulleit Distilling Co., where we began distilling Bulleit Bourbon earlier this year.
BB: Bulleit Bourbon is recognizable by its high rye content (28%)? Did Bulleit set out to create a high rye bourbon?
KD: Tom set out to create a bourbon with a high rye content that resembled the Bulleit family tradition. The historic recipe gives Bulleit Bourbon a bold, spicy character with a distinctively smooth, clean finish.
BB: Bulleit’s Rye Whiskey uses a mash bill that is 95% rye. Did the distillery set out to create a rye with the maximum rye content to match its high-rye bourbon?
KD: Bulleit Rye was originally created almost as a thank you to the bartending community who supported Bulleit Bourbon. Tom received many requests for a straight rye whiskey to re-create classic cocktails; those bartenders inspired Tom to create Bulleit Rye. It is one of the highest rye whiskeys on the market and pays homage to the Bulleit high-rye family recipe.
BB: Bulleit’s 10-Year-Old Bourbon has the same mash bill as Bulleit’s traditional bourbon, but the 10-Year-Old Bourbon is aged longer. How would you describe the differences between these two bourbons?
KD: Bulleit 10 Year Old is spicier and has a stronger oak influence due to the additional years in the barrel. It makes for an incredible sipping bourbon, while Bulleit Bourbon is a classic in cocktails.
BB: What can visitors expect on a tour of the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience?
KD: At the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience, visitors can tour the historic facility to learn more about Bulleit and the legend that is Stitzel-Weller. Whiskey tastings of the Bulleit portfolio and our sister brands are also offered on the tour for guests 21+.
If you would like to visit the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, you can visit www.BulleitExperience.com for more information.