Last Updated on June 15, 2022 by Lydia Martin
When it comes to bourbon, two well-respected brands always seem to be in the debate of being the best: Bulleit Bourbon vs Woodford Reserve.
Both are great bourbons with a long history, but which one is better?
Table of Contents
Woodford Reserve & Bulleit Bourbon Main Differences
Both Bulleit and Woodford use a mashbill with a high content of spicy rye, which gives the whiskeys a smooth and spicy profile, and neither has an age statement. However, the two brands have key differences in their history, maturation, tasting note and finish, price point, mash bills, production, alcohol content, and food pairing.
Woodford Reserve is also distilled at a lower proof than Bulleit, which results in a slightly sweet palate. Ultimately, both whiskeys are delicious spirits with unique flavor profiles.
Closer Look At The Differences
History & Ownership
Augustus Bulleit first created Bulleit bourbon in the 1830s. Bulleit spent years perfecting his recipe, which uses a high proportion of rye grain to give it a unique palate. In 1997, Diageo (now the owner of Bulleit) partnered with Tom Bulleit to relaunch the Bulleit brand. Four Roses supplied Bulleit whiskey for more than a decade. In late 2013 or early 2014, Four Roses canceled their contract and Bulleit sourced its products from other manufacturers.
Woodford Reserve is another famous bourbon whiskey, and Elijah Pepper first produced the whiskey in 1812. After his death, it was inherited by Oscar Pepper and was known as The Oscar Pepper Distillery.
The Pepper family sold the distillery several times over the next few decades, and it eventually came under the ownership of Brown-Forman in 1941. Until now, the Kentucky bourbon has been owned by Brown Forman Corporation. But does bourbon have to be really made in Kentucky?
Both Bulleit and Woodford Reserve bourbon use oak barrels for maturation. However, the type of wood and length of maturation used can impact the final flavor of the bourbon.
For example, Bulleit is matured in charred American white oak barrels for eight to ten years. In contrast, Woodford Reserve is a Kentucky Straight bourbon whiskey matured in deeply charred barrels for seven to nine years. So, while both spirits are matured in barrels, the differences in the maturation process give each bourbon its distinct profile.
Tasting Notes & Finish
Bulleit Bourbon has a modern take on the classic spirit with both sweet and spicy notes. The oak barrel aging gives the bourbon a robust flavor with subtle sweetness, and its finish is pleasantly warm and rich in nutmeg and cinnamon clove.
On the other hand, Woodford takes a more traditional approach to flavor. The oak barrel aging is still present, but a pronounced spice character balances it. The finish is long and lingering, pleasantly warm with citrus, honey, and vanilla hints.
There is about a $10 price difference between the two in Woodford Reserve vs Bulleit Bourbon price point. Bulleit is a budget-friendly option, and it is priced at roughly $30 per bottle. However, if you have a few extra dollars to spend, it is highly recommended to try a bottle of Woodford Reserve that costs around $39.
Bulleit Bourbon and Woodford Reserve are two of the most popular small-batch bourbons. Both spirits have a mash bill of at least 51% corn which qualifies as bourbons , but the similarities end there.
Bulleit Bourbon has a high rye content, giving it a spicy profile with rye grain notes. The small-batch bourbon mash bill contains 28% rye, 68% corn, and 4% malted barley. On the other hand, Woodford has a lower rye content, resulting in a more mellow taste with hints of sweetness. Its mashbill contains 18% rye, 72% corn, and 10% malted barley.
Production & Distillation
Bulleit bourbon has a higher percentage of rye in the mashbill and a longer fermentation process. It uses lower proof and a slower distillation to preserve more of the flavors from the grains.
On the other hand, Woodford uses a sweeter mashbill with a higher percentage of corn. It gives sweetness to the spirits and lingering notes of vanilla and caramel.
In addition, Bulleit bourbon is distilled using a continuous column still, while Woodford is distilled using a pot still.
The key to food pairing is to find a balance between the sweet notes of the spirit and the food itself. For example, a glass of Woodford has sweet notes of honey and vanilla, making it a great pairing for dishes like Hawaiian pizza, aged parmesan cheese, and dark chocolate.
On the other hand, a glass of Bulleit is a bit more full-bodied, with a richer flavor that pairs well with spicy chicken wings and bacon. So whether you’re serving up a spicy chicken curry or a juicy steak, there’s a bourbon whiskey out there that will complement your meal perfectly.
A higher ABV usually means a stronger flavor, while a lower ABV results in a smooth spirit. Let’s have Woodford and Bulleit bourbon whiskey comparison in alcohol content with that in mind.
Bulleit has an ABV of 45%, making it one of the strongest whiskeys on the shelf. On the other hand, Woodford has a slightly lower ABV of 43%. Both are fairly similar and have strong notes of oak and vanilla, with a hint of oak spice when it comes to flavor.
Which is smoother, Woodford or Bulleit?
Woodford is smoother than Bulleit because it has lower ABV, lower rye content, and a high percentage of corn content. If you are a huge fan of sweeter bourbon, you will surely get Woodford for your whiskey shelf. On the other hand, Bulleit is spicy and bold with notes of vanilla and orange because of its highest rye content.
Which is better for cocktails, Bulleit or Woodford?
Woodford Reserve bourbon is better for cocktails compared to Bulleit bourbon whiskey. It has a sweet and caramel palate that some find pairs well with vermouths and other spicy and sweet ingredients often used to make a cocktail drink. However, Bulleit gives a distinct, peppery flavor, but you can try it in Whiskey Sour or Old Fashioned.
And the Winner is…
Bulleit and Woodford Reserve bourbon always seem to be at the top of everyone’s list for bourbons. Both spirits are well-respected with a devoted following, but Woodford Reserve bourbon is better than Bulleit bourbon whiskey.
Woodford can be a bit more expensive, but it’s also considered one of the smoothest and most drinkable bourbons on the market. But if you’re looking for a bolder flavor, Bulleit can be a great choice.
We hope you enjoyed our in-depth review of Bulleit bourbon vs Woodford Reserve!
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.