Drink Magazine

Rye Whiskey Review Showdown – Dickel Vs Bulleit Vs High West Rendezvous Rye

By Boozedancing @boozedancing

A Trio Of Ryes

First we had the Mexican Beer Trifecta where we reviewed three different Mexican beers. Now we have the Rye Whiskey Review Showdown where we’re reviewing three different Rye whiskies (Dickel Rye, Bulleit Rye, and High West Rendezvous Rye to be more precise). So what’s with all this number three business? Perhaps this video will shed some light on the significance of the number three…

Now that I’ve got that bit of silliness out of the way, let’s find out a bit more about these whiskies and get on with my tasting notes…

Dickel Rye

I couldn’t find much information about this whisky on the interwebz, but I was able to get some information from Whisky Advocate’s John Hansell on his blog:

All the whiskey in this new bottling is at least 5 years old, and for this reason alone I am enjoying it more than Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye. It’s made from 95% rye, like many other rye whiskeys on the market, including the another Diageo-owned bourbon label, Bulleit Rye.

And now for my impressions of this whiskey…

  • Appearance: Clear amber color.
  • Aroma: Cinnamon sticks, wintergreen mint, a hint of vanilla, allspice, and maple syrup.
  • Taste: The mouthfeel is a bit thin and watery. Little to no alcohol burn. Soothing cinnamon and mint at the onset. The cinnamon spice intensifies at mid-palate with a bit of vanilla and brown sugar sweetness lurking in the background. Soothing medium finish with a pleasant, sweet/spicy aftertaste.
  • ABV: 45%


Bulleit Rye

Once again, there isn’t much on the official Bulleit website, but I did find this tidbit of information about the Bulleit Rye on John Hansell’s blog:

No age statement, but it includes 4 to 7 year old whiskeys. The mashbill is 95% rye — much higher than most standard rye whiskeys out there.

And now for my impressions of this whiskey…

  • Appearance: Looks exactly like the Dickel, i.e. more of that lovely amber color.
  • Aroma: Very similar aromas going on here. The cinnamon scent is more pronounced. Also getting peppermint and brown sugar.
  • Taste: Though the mouthfeel is very similar to the Dickel Rye, the actual taste is where the Bulleit has a slight edge over the Dickel. The cinnamon spice is much more intense, and there’s also a stronger herbal/minty backbone with hints of vanilla and brown sugar thrown into the mix as well. Warm, medium finish with a cinnamon, vanilla, and brown sugar aftertaste.
  • ABV: 45%


High West Rendezvous Rye

Finally! Some information from the actual distillery. Here is what High West Distillery has to say about their Rendezvous Rye:

Rendezvous Rye is a blend of two exotic straight rye whiskies; one old, and one young. It marries the rich aromatic qualities of a 16-year-old rye with the bold spicy properties of 6-year-old rye to create a full flavored, very complex whiskey. The 6-year-old boasts an uncommonly high 95% rye mash bill. Almost every other straight rye whiskey you can buy today is barely legal, with 51-53% rye in the mash bill. Not Rendezvous Rye. It honors the way rye whiskey used to be made, with a high rye content and full, uncompromised flavor. With Rendezvous Rye, you get a taste of authentic rye whiskey. We hope you enjoy it.

And now for my impressions of this whiskey…

  • Appearance: Here we go again! It looks a lot like the Dickel and Bulleit. This time I’ll call it maple syrup in a glass.
  • Aroma: Much sweeter smelling than the other two. Definite cinnamon notes coming through, but this time with a brown sugar sweetness to it. Less herbal than the Dickel and Bulleit. Also getting fresh mint, vanilla, and ginger.
  • Taste: Still rather thin, but with a touch of oiliness. Similar cinnamon/vanilla/minty flavors, but a bit more well rounded and cohesive this time around. Not as hot on the palate, but definitely lots of sweet cinnamon from start to finish. Lingering, soothing finish with a Big Red gum aftertaste. Also a bit more astringent than the other two. This is probably due to the 16 year old Rye that is a big part of this whisky.
  • ABV: 46%


The Verdict

Talk about a humbling experience! While I have never taken part in a professional whisky tasting panel, after reading a recent blog post by Johanne McInnis about her experience as one of the judges for the 2012 Canadian Whisky Awards where she had to nose, taste, and rate 60 different whiskies in 30 days, nosing, tasting, and rating just three whiskies in one sitting should have been a walk in the park. While my tasting notes might suggest that there are big differences between the three Rye whiskies that I sampled for this post, the truth is that the differences are quite small, and it took me a couple of hours to figure it all out. The biggest difference that my amateur nose and palate could detect lies in the intensity of the flavors…

  • The Dickel was easily the most mellow of the three. It was smooth and easy drinking for sure, but I can’t help to think that the charcoal filtering took some of the edge off (just a theory).
  • The Bulleit was a bit more intense, but only by a slight margin, and I found that the overall flavors came together better which resulted in a more well rounded flavor profile.
  • The High West was a definite step up in flavor, especially with regards to the finish which was much more rich and long lasting than what I experienced with the Dickel and the Bulleit. As I said in my tasting notes, this probably has a great deal to do with the addition of the 16 year old Rye.

Overall, I truly enjoyed all three whiskies and think that they are very good to drink as-is, i.e. no ice or water needed. At $25 per bottle, the Dickel is a great value, but if you don’t mind spending a bit more, then you will definitely get a good bit more flavor for your money if you step up to the Bulleit (about $33/bottle) or the High West Rendezous Rye (about $45/bottle).


Many thanks to Joseph Clarkson of Taylor Strategy for the Dickel Rye sample and Limpd for the Bulleit Rye sample. The High West Rendezvous Rye was paid for by yours truly!

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