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Friday, June 3, 2016

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Bulleit Barrel Strength (at the Pimento Cheese Social 2016)

After years of consumers calling for it, Diageo’s Bulleit Bourbon has entered the barrel proof show with an immediate go-to contender.  I got an advance tasting at this year’s Kentucky Derby week Pimento Cheese Social, held again at the historic Stitzel-Weller distillery in Shively, Kentucky.  Tom Bulleit told me that Bulleit Barrel Strength comes from the same source as the standard orange label Bulleit, and it shows.

The 5th Annual Pimento Cheese Social was a hit too, with live music from Billy Goat Strut Revue and inventive pimento cheese creations from area chefs.  Overall and compared to 2015, the 2016 chefs were the clear winners.  Garage Bar prepared smoked cheddar pimento served in small cheese cones with chipotle sauce that were outstanding; The Hub prepared pimento cheese stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates that might be the only way to ever eat dates again; and Monnik Beer Co. prepared a pimento cheese spread paired with fresh bread.

My favorite combination, however, was from Feast BBQ and Royals Hot Chicken:  fried pimento mac-n-cheese balls alongside fried spicy chicken with pimento cheese pepper jelly on fresh buttermilk biscuits.  Under the tent at Stitzel-Weller, with Billy Goat Strut playing in the background, it was a perfect evening.

Bourbon:
Bulleit Barrel Strength Limited Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Distillery:
Unknown

Age:
No Age Statement

ABV:
59.5% (119 proof) [expected range for future editions: 118-125 proof]

Cost:
Suggested Retail:  $49.99 (750ml); $29.99 (375ml)
Price I found in Louisville:  $54.99

Tasting Notes

Appearance:
Typical amber with an orange / copper hue.

Nose:
There’s some untamed heat evident in the nose, but then it sweetens up with caramel and honey, also with clear pepper and cinnamon.  I would not call it “complex,” but has a nice balance of aromas.

Taste:
There’s also a great balance here between sweet (caramel, brown sugar, graham cracker), spice (black pepper and cinnamon again), and oak.  These flavors are combined with some rough fire that should be expected from nearly 60% ABV, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend a novice of cask-strength Bourbons drink this neat.  But if you are already comfortable with cask-strength, Bulleit Barrel Strength will be smooth and enjoyable neat.  After some air and time, there’s a slight nuttiness, so my recommendation is to try this neat and drink it slowly.

Finish:
Medium-long finish, creamy, sweet toffee, but overall dry with a focus on oak and spice.

Bottom Line

Non-chill filtered and barrel strength will now reach the masses between Bulleit’s release (even though it’s currently Kentucky-only) and Maker’s Mark’s nationwide release last year.  I liked it well enough that I bought a bottle within a week, and it’s been a great bottle to enjoy as we enter the summer outdoor season.  As good as the standard Bulleit is in cocktails, I expect Bulleit Barrel Strength to be better, but so far I’ve only had it neat and on ice.  This one deserves some more experimentation.

Score on The Sipp’n Corn Scale:  4.0

The Sipp’n Corn Scale:
1 – Swill.  I might dump the bottle, but will probably save it for my guests who mix with Coke.
2 – Hits the minimum criteria, but given a choice, I’d rather have something else.
3 – Solid Bourbon with only minor shortcomings.  Glad to own and enjoy.
4 – Excellent Bourbon.  Need to be hyper-critical to find flaws.  I’m lucky to have this.
5 – Bourbon perfection.  I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.

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