Bulleit 12-Year-Old Rye Whiskey (2024) Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Bulleit 12-Year-Old Rye Whiskey (2024) Review

Of all the products I’ve seen released in the American whiskey market during my time as a spirits writer, Bulleit 12 Year Rye is one that has always stood out in my mind–not because I particularly loved the first release of it in 2019, but because I was always surprised it didn’t make a bigger splash at the time. Even then, the thought of a 12-year-old age stated MGP rye in wide release, for a mere $50 price tag, seemed like an objectively great deal. The whiskey itself, I was less thrilled by–I recall it being somewhat on the dry and tannic side–but the specs were genuinely eye popping, and I figured at the time it was something people would be talking about. Perhaps the Diageo brand struck a bit too soon, before enough bourbon bros had expanded their purview to include rye?

Regardless, it was a surprise recently to see that Bulleit 12 Year Rye would be making an unexpected return after a five year hiatus, this time as a limited release. And it’s even more of a surprise to see that the MSRP is now just $55, a more modest increase than I could possibly have imagined, considering the way prices in the American whiskey world have skyrocketed in general in the pandemic era. I really can’t stress enough how much of an outlier $55 is for something bearing a 12 year age statement from MGP–there are other whiskeys on the market with similar specs that have prices of $100, $200 and beyond. Look at Cascade Moon’s 13 Year Rye from back in 2021, a whiskey I absolutely loved–that’s a 13-year-old MGP rye at 100 proof, with a $300 price tag. And now Diageo can somehow now offer a 12-year rye, at 92 proof, with a $55 price tag, even after years of inflation? It’s a price so low, it feels almost suspicious somehow–or perhaps we’ve all just become so inured to gouging that we don’t know how to react when something is a good deal. Particularly when you read that there’s actually some distillate in here as old as 17 years, as well.

Regardless, what we have here is an extra-aged example of the classic 95% rye, 5% malted barley rye whiskey recipe from MGP, a recipe that the original Bulleit Rye helped to make famous in the first place when it debuted back in 2011. The 2010s were essentially rye whiskey’s coming out party as a result, taking the spirit from dusty back shelves and thrusting it into a star player in the mixology world in particular. Bulleit Rye was an undeniably huge part of this, and its influence can still be felt in aspects so seemingly small as the color of bottle labels: Because Bulleit Rye was green, so many rye labels are still green in color to this day, “green” having become effectively shorthand for rye whiskey.

All that’s left is to answer the obvious question: How does Bulleit Rye present with significantly more age on it? Let’s get to tasting and see.

On the nose, the first impressions here are sweet, with warm caramel and honey, flanked by bright citrus that also reads as sweet/candied, with orange and lemon character. I’m also getting some pumpernickel bread announcing the rye, along with a little mint, cedar and slightly musty oak–just a hint of rickhouse funk. More grassy and herbal tones peek through the background, with some black pepper and slight clove spice. You get a sense of the maturity here, though it’s somewhat lighter than some of the other extra-aged MGP ryes I’ve sampled in the past. This nose does grow a bit in stature as it sits in the glass with exposure to air, however.

On the palate, I’m getting warm caramel sweetness up front, with vanilla bean, lots of cracked pepper, black tea, and quite a lot of bright citrus the reflects the fruitiness of the nose. There’s also a little peach, before it begins to transitions into drying oakiness that is both toasted and sweetly charred. There’s a kiss of espresso and some roasty astringency, with tannin that stops well short of being unpleasantly dry. In truth, I think it actually sort of needs this dryness, because this rye reads as quite sweet up front, but then makes a nice turn toward modest dryness. Ethanol, meanwhile, is quite mild, as you would probably expect it to be. Each sip seems to leave a lingering vanilla sweetness on the lips, evoking cookie dough in an odd way.

All in all, this isn’t the boldest expression of an extra-aged MGP rye I’ve come across, but it is well rounded. You get some sense of the age statement without the barrel really getting into super-mature flavor profile, but what you’re left with is a rich and moderately sweet, easy to approach rye whiskey. It’s tasty in its own right, and for what it’s worth I find myself liking Bulleit 12 Year Rye more now than I recall liking the first release in 2019. There’s certainly no denying that this bottle remains a pretty unbelievable value in terms of its specs, with very few comparisons that exist in the market today.

Distillery: Bulleit (Sourced, MGP of Indiana)
City: Lawrenceburg, IN
Style: Straight rye whiskey
ABV: 46% (92 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $55 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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