A Drink With… Tom Bulleit, Bulleit Bourbon

28th March, 2013 by Becky Paskin

Former lawyer Tom Bulleit brought the old family Bourbon back to life in the eighties, and has seen it grow into a cult brand thanks to a supportive parent in Diageo and a charismatic daughter called Hollis. He spills the beans to Tom Bruce-Gardyne.

Tom-Bulleit

Tom Bulleit’s latest creation is a 10-year-old version on his namesake bourbon

The drinks are on us – what’ll you have?
I think I’ll have a Bulleit Rye Manhattan, because the Manhattan calls for rye whiskey and we make a very interesting one with a 95% rye mash bill, 90 proof and nicely matured.

Whatever happened to Augustus Bulleit – the guy who created the whiskey?
That’s a question we’ve been asking since 1860. He embarked on one of his journeys down the Mississippi to New Orleans with barrels of whiskey on a raft and did not return. The recipe was passed down from Augustus to my grandfather – Francis Aim Bulleit.

How did you come to recreate the recipe in 1986?
When I first told my father I wanted to be a distiller like Uncle Jim, he said “you’re going in the military, and then you’re going to be a lawyer”. If I said that to my son, he would grab a guitar and say “I’m outta here,” but in my generation people did what their dad said. When I went back to him in ’86, and said I wanted to bring back Augustus’ recipe, he said, “Tom, that’s between you and your banker.”

Bulleit is now part of Diageo – so what’s your role?
Diageo have been an absolutely wonderful partner and have grown Bulleit at a very responsible and business-like pace. It has now reached a sort of critical mass at around 300,000 cases and sales just about doubled last year. It remains an entrepreneurial venture for me, so I pursue new markets and do brand ambassadorships as well. And obviously I’m involved in innovation with new products like Bulleit Rye and the 10-year-old.

What about your daughter – Hollis?
Hollis has been involved for seven years. She’s our on-premise brand ambassador and has built a wonderful relationship with mixologists and bartenders. She’s got a bit of street cred as an artist who lived in New York’s East Village and now lives in downtown LA. She’s fun – she’s a piece of work!

Where’s Bulleit made?
We make our Bourbon in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and we make our rye in Lawrenceburg, Indiana – both at old Seagram’s distilleries with wonderful stills. In my view Seagram’s had one of the highest quality cultures of any distillery company in the world.

Why has the Bourbon category suddenly caught fire?
Well whiskey has come back in fashion, there’s no question. To some extent it’s cyclical, but I think people have interest in a much broader spectrum of spirits than they once had. Specifically one of the things that helped Bulleit is the cocktail culture. We’ve worked that on-trade really hard trying to explain who we are and what our differences are.

What are your views on flavoured whiskeys?
You can make a flavoured Bourbon. Beam makes one and they may be great products, but that’s not what we’re about. We make straight whiskeys, and the rules are stringent.

Leave a Reply

If that's interesting, how about these?

Milk & Honey founder Sasha Petraske found dead

Milk & Honey founder Sasha Petraske, regarded as one of the foremost more...

New Japanese whisky brand launches in Europe

Japan’s Monde Shuzo Distillery has partnered up with European distributor Les more...

Top nine supermarket spirits

Much more than a cheaper alternative, UK supermarkets are producing more...

World whisky sector 'righted' as Irish grows

As Irish whiskey experiences momentous growth, its position against the leading more...

Jim Beam latest to win 'handcrafted' lawsuit

Beam Suntory has claimed victory in a lawsuit alleging its Jim Beam Bourbon more...

Asda stocks Jim Beam signature serve kit

Jim Beam distributor Maxxium UK has launched a new Jim Beam Apple Splash pack more...

John Dewar & Sons powers Scottish homes

John Dewar & Sons is upholding its commitment to sustainability with a new more...

Beam Suntory creates another new exec role

Beam Suntory has appointed former Kraft Heinz Company executive Greg Hughes to more...

Jim Beam Apple launches across US

Beam Suntory has officially rolled out its latest flavour variant, Jim Beam more...

Four Roses releases tribute bottling for retiring master distiller

Four Roses Bourbon has announced its 2015 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon more...

Vodka investment fraudster jailed for one year

An American lawyer who collected more than US$1.5m through a bogus vodka more...

Nineteenth century whisky found in time capsule

Construction workers have uncovered what is believed to be a bottle of whisky more...

The week in pictures

Boozy sorbets, asparagus munching, whisky-containing ice sculptures and another more...

Diageo fails to meet all but one 2015 sustainability target

Diageo says it has made “strong progress” on its 2015 Sustainability and more...

Jack Daniel’s declares ‘Jack Friday’ in UK

Brown-Forman’s Jack Daniel’s brand is linking up with UK on-trade partners more...

Confessions of a spirits retailer: PLCB

Pam Bernd, merchandising and pricing coordinator of the Pennsylvania Liquor more...

Roundtable selects fourth Booker’s Bourbon release

Booker's Bourbon has unveiled the fourth batch of its 2015 Collection, which more...

Top 10 spirits ageing innovations

As Suntory launches its whiskies into space to age on-board the International more...

Kingsbarns Distillery bottles new make spirit

Wemyss Malts’ recently opened Kingsbarns Distillery has bottled its 63.5% abv more...

Row over Johnnie Walker kosher status

Diageo's Johnnie Walker whisky is at the centre of a row involving Israel's more...