Diageo’s recent foray into offering single-barrel expressions of Bulleit bourbon had many of our readers questioning the true origin of those barrels. With a hang tag that comments on their “unique” 10 different recipes of high rye bourbon, their two mash bills, and five yeast strains, it’s no secret that the brand sounds incredibly similar to another well-loved distillery’s operation. Diageo knew they would get some heat from bourbon aficionados worldwide for this, particularly the massive social media groups devoted to America’s native spirit. To make sure they differentiated their offering from the aforementioned beloved distillery, they apparently have kept a secret 6th yeast strain for what, until now, dear readers, has been a super top-secret new release. You’re hearing it; first, folks, 2021 will see the release of Bulleit’s first-ever expression in the booming segment of flavored whiskey.
When Diageo reopened the Stitzel Weller distillery in 2014, an employee stumbled across an orphaned Superman lunchbox. Noted historian Marsha Time dated the lunchbox as 1954, based upon its blue trim and cover design featuring Superman fighting a robot. Upon opening the dusty and rusty time capsule, a petrified cinnamon roll was discovered. Somehow it remained perfectly intact - if not a bit hard - without any signs of mold or bacteria. Sensing they had another Orphan Barrel opportunity on their hands, Diageo was quick to have a chemical analysis done on the cinnamon roll and was able to identify a yeast strain in the dough that was thought to have been lost forever.
The yeast originated with Charles Pillsbury and, as luck would have it, was used in breadmaking by a Bulleit family member who worked in the Pillsbury factory as a baker’s apprentice in the late 1800s. That family member, Tom Bulleit’s great, great 2nd cousin Thadeus Bulleit, apparently had a penchant for eating raw bread dough, and some say the Pillsbury Doughboy was actually inspired by his legend. Fortunately for Bulleit lovers around the world, through proprietary technology, Diageo was able to extract the yeast from the cinnamon roll to the point they could use it in the bourbon-making process.
In a mash-up made sweeter than a Hallmark movie, Diageo negotiated with Pillsbury to use the recovered yeast strain, along with the legendary Pillsbury cinnamon roll recipe, to create Bulleit Cinnamon Roll Bourbon. It will use both of Bulleti’s high-rye mash bills, each with the Pillsbury yeast strain, and will be aged in charred oak barrels. The kicker here is the finishing, though, which has never been attempted by any distiller. The matured bourbon will age for 3-4 weeks in 53-gallon Pillsbury cinnamon roll tubes.
Bulleit Cinnamon Roll bourbon will hit stores in the fall of 2021 when baking spices are at the height of popularity. Labels are being worked on, but we have an exclusive mockup of one of the early favorites from what we’re told.
Note: This story was originally aired on the Bourbon & Banter podcast – Episode 3: A Kick in the Crotch Shot. Since we anticipate this new expression will make it's debut during Bourbon Heritage Month, we invite you to listen to the original podcast below.