According to reports done by Drizzly, Bulleit and Woodford Reserve are the #1 and #3 best selling bourbons in the US, respectively. Last night I found myself drinking Bulleit, and the Kentucky Derby is coming up, which Woodford has sponsored for over 20 years. So, I figured it was a great time to write a Woodford Reserve vs Bulleit comparison guide.
While the report only includes sales on Drizzly, I found it odd that these two bourbons were so high up given that Jack Daniel’s is included in the bourbon category. So, we’re going to take a look at the history, taste, price, and value of these two whiskeys.
Woodford Reserve vs Bulleit History
Before we get into some of the more pertinent information such as price and tasting notes, let’s look at the past. How did Bulleit and Woodford Reserve get to where they are? How long have they been around, and who owns them? These are the questions we’re going to answer in this section.
Woodford Reserve History
The history behind the brand of Woodford Reserve is quite short. It was established just 26 years ago, in 1996. The true history behind Woodford Reserve is the land and distillery. It all started back in 1812 on a plot of land in Northern Kentucky. Elijah Pepper had begun distilling and selling whiskey. After finding success, he opened up the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery in 1838.
Throughout the next century and a half, the land and distillery swapped hands a number of times. Finally, in 1993 it found a new owner who had plans of holding onto it. The Brown-Forman Corporation, a previous owner, had re-purchased the land and distillery. After a couple years of renovations investments, Woodford reserve was born. Since then, Woodford reserve has skyrocketed to being one of the most renowned and popular bourbons on the market.
There are a couple things to mention about the brand current day. First is that the land and distillery are National Historic Landmarks. Kentucky is the home of Bourbon, and the land and distillery that Woodford Reserve operates out was one of the first in the country. Second, is Woodford’s relationship with the Kentucky Derby. They have sponsored every Kentucky Derby race since 1999. You can read more about the relationship and the limited edition bottles HERE.
Like Woodford Reserve, Bulleit hasn’t been around for long, but their roots go back to the 1800’s. In 1987, Thomas E. Bulleit created the Bulleit Distilling Company. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of his great-great-grandfather, Augustus Bulleit. Augustus was a tavern keeper and distiller from 1830-1860. Augustus had set out to create a unique bourbon, one with a high rye content. One day he was transporting his bourbon from Kentucky down to New Orleans and disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again.
Fast forward to 1987, Tom Bulleit left a career in law to recreate the family recipe. He created the Bulleit Distilling Company and began distilling a high rye bourbon. In 2021, Bulleit was the 7th most sold Bourbon in the World – and the best seller on Drizzly, an alcohol delivery service. Today, Bulleit is owned by Diageo after they purchased the bourbon back in 2001.
Woodford Reserve vs Bulleit Mash Bill
Before we get into Woodford Reserve’s and Bulleit’s mash bill, what exactly does mash bill mean? Well, a whiskey’s mash bill is, in a sense, its recipe. Whiskey is typically comprised of one or some combination of 4 grains – corn, rye, wheat, and barley.
There is one thing we know for sure about Woodford and Bulleit’s mash bill. It contains at least 51% corn since that is a requirement of bourbon. Luckily for us, Woodford and Bulleit both release their mash bill, although not all whiskeys do.
Woodford Reserve has a mash bill made up of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley. While 18% rye is higher than average for most bourbons, it’s still not considered a high-rye bourbon. High-rye bourbon is generally regarded as bourbon that contains 20-35% rye.
Since Bulleit has 28% rye, it is regarded as a high-rye bourbon. Corn is still the predominant grain in its composition at 68%, and malted barley accounts for just 4%.
Woodford Reserve vs Bulleit Bourbon Taste
When it comes to distilling whiskey, each grain will produce it’s own flavor. Corn is known to produce sweeter flavors and rye adds spice. So now that we’ve covered some of the basics, lets get into the tasting notes between these two well respected bourbons.
Woodford Reserve Tasting Notes
Nose: Oak and tobacco with sweet honey and vanilla notes.
Palate: No flavor is too overwhelming. Sweet caramel and spices come together with light nutty and almond notes.
Finish: Moderate to long finish with a bit more spice and smoke than apparent on the palate.
Bulleit Bourbon Tasting Notes
Nose: Charred oak and leather meet spicy rye notes. Hints of caramel and vanilla appear as well.
Palate: Has more spice than most bourbons, but doesn’t lose it’s sweetness. Maple and oak pair with the corn sweetness and rye spice.
Finish: Long finish, the spice mellows out into toffee and almond flavors.
Which Is Better, Woodford Reserve or Bulleit Bourbon?
Obviously, this really comes down to personal preference. There’s a reason Bulleit and Woodford are two of the best selling bourbons in the world – they are high quality and tasty. So, I will only speak on my preferences.
I love rye whiskey, I always have. However, I’ve recently realized how much I love a good high-rye bourbon. You don’t need a mash bill of 75-100% rye for the spice to shine. That’s why I love both Woodford and Bulleit…. but, I prefer Bulleit. I think the rye is more prominent while also being more mellow and smooth. If you disagree, let me know in the comments! If you’re not sure, go out and try both!
Woodford Reserve vs Bulleit Price
Taste isn’t the only reason these two bourbons are flying off the shelf. Their reasonable price for the quality is another factor. There are plenty of cheaper options out there, not too many of them will be as available and tasty as these two.
I should also note that these prices can vary and a dependent on location and individual store. I use multiple locations of Total Wine for my average prices. Total Wine typically has some of the best prices and is all over the country.
- 750ml Woodford Reserve: $28-35
- 1.75L Woodford Reserve: $54-65
- 750ml Bulleit Bourbon: $27-33
- 1.75L Bulleit Bourbon: $42-50
You’ll be able to find a bottle at the lower end of these price ranges at Total Wine. Plug in your zip code to find the nearest store to you. It’s important to note that both of these bourbons clock in at 90 proof, or 45% ABV. To be specific, Woodford is listed at 45.2%, 90.4 proof, and Bulleit at a flat 45% ABV.
When it comes to buying a standard bottle, Bulleit can be bought for a couple dollars cheaper than Woodford Reserve. However, a 1.75L of Bulleit can often be purchased for $10-15 cheaper than a full handle of Woodford.
Bulleit has a slight edge to Woodford when it comes to pricing, but both are offered at a fair price given their quality and demand.
Woodford Reserve vs Bulleit Bourbon Varieties
Up until this point, we’ve covered the standard bottles of Woodford and Bulleit. However, both brands offer different varieties you can choose from. Woodford has 7 ‘subsets’ of their original whiskey. They include – Double Oaked, Malt Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Wheat Whiskey, Baccarat Edition, Master’s Collection, and Distillery Series.
Bulleit, on the other hand, has just three other variations. They include Bulleit Rye, Bulleit 10 Year, and Bulleit Barrel Select. I’m not going to get into every variation because that would just be too much – and because i haven’t had every single one – but I will touch upon their rye selections.
Bulleit Rye contains 95% rye and 5% malted barley. Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey contains 53% rye, 33% corn, and 14% malted barley. While Bulleit Rye has become a huge hit, I love Woodford’s rye whiskey. I mentioned earlier that rye doesn’t need to make up such a large portion of the mash bill to have a large effect.
Woodford’s rye whiskey is almost a high-bourbon rye whiskey with 33% corn and only 53% rye. The rye shines through, yet the sweetness of the corn is still prominent. If you haven’t had Woodford Reserve Rye Whiskey, I recommend you do.
Woodford Reserve vs Bulleit Summary
Woodford Reserve vs Bulleit has been a fun comparison guide for me to write. Well, maybe that’s just because I got to drink a lot of it. Their high quality partnered with their fair price is a huge factor to why these two whiskeys have been doing so well.
It’s also intriguing to know that these are two of the best sellers on Drizzly. Drizzly has a younger market than most places selling whiskey. So, what is it about these two whiskeys that are attracting the younger generations? Are people moving more towards high-rye bourbon? Perhaps so.
When it comes to such popular, distinguished, and delicious bourbons, it’s really an impossible feat to say which is better. While I prefer Bulleit due to my appreciation for high-rye bourbon, you should surely try both to find out which you prefer!