Blue Run High Rye Bourbon Review [In Depth]

Blue Run High Rye Bourbon

Alex author
Founder, writer
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Blue Run High Rye Bourbon Details

Company / Distillery: Blue Run

Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA

Alcohol: 55.5%

Composition: 65% corn, 30% rye, 5% malted barley

Aged: At least 4 years

Color: 1.4/2.0 on the color scale (tawny)

Price: $100

From the company website:

Blue Run Kentucky Straight High Rye Bourbon is a small-batch whiskey and is the first Blue Run product with Bourbon Hall of Famer Jim Rutledge serving as the contracted Master Distiller (on all previous Blue Run products, except Golden Rye, Jim served as the Liquid Advisor). Jim distilled this batch at Castle & Key Distillery.

Blue Run High Rye Bourbon overview

Blue Run has become a big name in American whiskey and they have released some amazing bourbons over the years, or at least that’s what I’ve heard because I was never able to get a bottle between 2020 and 2021.
To make the brand a bit more accessible, because only selling double-digit aged limited releases for $300+ isn’t necessarily sustainable as there just wasn’t enough 12+ year old Kentucky bourbon to go around, they expanded their lineup to include some batched whiskeys that are easier to find.
One of those whiskeys is Blue Run High Rye Bourbon, a Kentucky straight bourbon that’s a hefty 55% ABV and at least 4 years old. These releases are made in small batches, and this one comes from the Spring Batch, 3/02/2023 (what a weird way to format the date that probably means March 2, 2023), bottle 2060.
Here’s something to ponder – the media sample I received was sent from Green River distillery, but Blue Run mentions that this (or a different batch) is distilled at Castle and Key. Those two distilleries are 140 miles apart, although companies have trucked bourbon from one place to another to bottle it.
It’s possible that this is produced at Castle and Key, then bottled and shipped from Green River. It’s also possible that this particular batch was distilled, aged, bottled, and sent from Green River.
Regardless, this should change in a few years when their own distillery is up and running, and they shift some of their releases to their homemade whiskey. That probably won’t happen until at least around 2030 when they should have some 4 year old bourbon. At that point though, who knows if anyone’s going to be willing to spend more than $40 on what will be relatively young bourbon because there’s going to be SO much of it.
Blue Run was founded by former execs across apparel and tech, Jim Rutledge, and a few other people I can’t remember. Their approach to bourbon was to “sneakerize” it, by mainly doing limited drops instead of consistently releasing the same named product year after year. To be fair, Barrell has been doing that for years, with each batch being a one-time release. They’ve done well for years.
I remember when Blue Run took the bourbon world by storm in 2020, first with a 13-14 year old bourbon for around $200 (sourced I think from Heaven Hill). Into late 2020 and early 2021, things got really hot when they started releasing 13+ year old Single Barrel Kentucky bourbons for around $200-250, and those started to get snapped up instantly, with some then being flipped for near $1000 dollars (yes a bottle).
Speaking of premium, this bottle has some nice accents that make it feel premium. The vibrant gold text and sparkly butterfly glued to the bottle are nice touches. And for $100 a bottle, it’s certainly a premium price. I’m all for someone charging $100 for bourbon (or spirits in general), it just needs to be damn good and back it up with high quality stuff. I am hopeful that is the case. Let’s find out whether Blue Run has found success with this more available release in this Blue Run High Rye bourbon review
I’m all for someone charging $100 for bourbon (or spirits in general), it just needs to be damn good and back it up with high quality stuff. I am hopeful that is the case.
Let’s find out whether Blue Run has found success with this more available release in this Blue Run High Rye bourbon review
Thank you to Blue Run for providing this bottle at not cost to me. All opinions are still my own.
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Blue Run High Rye Bourbon smell

The scents have toasted caramel and nougat, vanilla, heavy baked red apple, roasted oak, a lot of nutmeg, cinnamon, dried cherry, fennel, freshly cut oak, and a little bit of wood varnish and peppercorn.
Blue Rye High Rye Bourbon has a very pleasant dark sweetness with a lot of spice and oak. It doesn’t have much pop or definition, but I do enjoy the fullness. If anything, the oak, nutmeg, and varnish bubble to the surface more than anything else.
After swirling and rest, I smell dense and dark caramel, vanilla, a lot of nutmeg, baked red apple, roasted oak, caramel nougat, a little bit of fresh orange juice, and some herbal fennel. I like the scents, but the problem is that it mostly feels all mashed together with not much separation of definition, except for maybe the nutmeg that surfaces above everything else.
This has more of a blunt hammer of scents (minus the heat) with less nuance and give & take to reinforce that it’s complex and mature. At least the heat is well controlled for 55.5% ABV.
Blue Rye High Rye Bourbon has a lot of offer, but in a way that doesn’t go above and beyond.
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Blue Run High Rye Bourbon taste and aftertaste

The flavors start with roasted caramel, roasted oak, baked red apple, nutmeg, cinnamon, dried cherry, and a little bit of caraway seed, fennel, coffee, and preserved lemon. Blue Run High Rye Bourbon has big, bold, dark, and spicy flavors, although not a lot of definition.
The 55.5% ABV thickens the flavors and emphasizes its age, but it doesn’t feel that refined because the layers and complexity aren’t all there. It’s a big and bold dark sweetness, oak, and spice, but with not much nuance and refinement.
With “chewing” I taste caramel, vanilla, red apple peel, a lot of nutmeg, then roasted oak, vanilla, cinnamon, fennel, and some earthy pumpernickel, orange peel, and more dark oak. For “high rye” there’s not much in the way of earthiness or herbalness, which I find surprising. There are plenty of oak spices though.
The flavors have some fruity and spicy pop, so that’s much improved and shifts the balance somewhat away from the oak and spice. It’s still oak and spice-forward for sure, which is still tasty, but the extra fruit adds a little extra complexity to it.
The finish leaves caramel, dried red apple, oak, and a lot of nutmeg with lingering roasted oak, nutmeg, wood varnish, and dried red apple skins. It’s similar after “chewing”, and the lingering clove, roasted oak, and red apple peel stick with me for a few minutes.
That said, as rich and bold as Blue Run High Rye Bourbon is, it generally doesn’t feel that nuanced. It doesn’t quite have that next level of pop, complexity, or uniqueness.
Blue Run High Rye Bourbon does a lot well, but it can’t quite seal the deal to be a memorable and completely worthwhile experience.
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Blue Run High Rye Bourbon Rating

Mid shelf+
Blue Run High Rye Bourbon is very good, but it’s not quite “Top Shelf” for me. I wish it was because I’d prefer to tell the media company that I think it’s amazing, but it doesn’t feel like there’s quite enough there to get it over the top.
The dark sweetness, oak, and nutmeg-focused spice with fruit accents are all great, and the ABV helps fill out the mouthfeel. The thing is, “Top Shelf” requires me to think something along the lines of “oh yeah this is amazing / wonderful”. There’s a lot to enjoy, but it’s not enough to get to the next level.
And at around $100, it is a really tough sell. The packaging is premium but the the way the bourbon smells and drinks is not premium enough as it needs to be to justify the price, especially when there are bourbons such as Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, Wyoming Whiskey Double Cask, various Still Austin Bottled in Bonds, and Baker’s Single Barrel (among others) that are on the shelves for you to buy. The “right” price is probably around $70-75.
I understand that Blue Run is leaning in on the “premiumization” and “sneakerization” of bourbon, and they are free to charge as much as they want, but they need to back it up by making sure that every release is amazing. So if you think about it in that way for this bourbon, then Blue Run High Rye Bourbon gets a C. It gets the job done but doesn’t hit all the marks that it could or should.
I’ll enjoy Blue Run High Rye Bourbon while I have it, share it, and use it for cocktails. If you get a bottle, I hope that you will do the same, but just manage your expectations and don’t expect to be blown away by it just because you paid around $100 for it.
This is not worth it for the money. Blue Run team – you have all the resources to do better than this.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

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BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)