As many of you may or may not know, in order for a Whiskey to be called Bourbon, among other things, it must be made from at least 51% corn while the rest of the blend is left to the discretion of the producer. The standard is to use rye or malted barley as the additional component of the mash bill. The purpose of these secondary grains is to lend additional flavor and aromatic components to the generally sweet profile of the corn base. The higher the proportion of rye generally leads to a spicier more heat driven profile, while malted barley which is traditionally used in Single Malt Scotch provides a lighter and at times floral profile. However in relatively recent years some producers have begun to introduce wheat as a secondary grain to spectacular effect. Wheat tends to have an opposite softening affect on the Whiskey which makes it smooth, rich, and easy drinking.
So without further ado I will get into some of my favorite wheated Bourbons. One of my top choices and a real value for the money is the Old Fitzgerald bottled in bond at only $14.99. It has enough punch at 100 proof, but the addition of wheat to the mash bill softens that heat. This wheated Bourbon is my go to when crafting cocktails such as the Old Fashioned or Manhattan. The brand has been around for over 120 years so you know they must be doing something right. Another great value and one of my all time favorite everyday sipping Whiskey is the W.L. Weller 12 year old, available for only $25.99, as an in-store purchase only as stocks are limited. The extra age given to this wheated Bourbon gives it an incredibly smooth and slightly sweet mouth feel accompanied by a nice dose of toasty vanilla from its 12 years spent ageing in new oak barrels. It is virtually impossible to beat at the price point. For those of you looking for something more every day but with a similar profile, the folks at Buffalo Trace also make the W.L. Weller Antique 107 brand which is wheated Bourbon with a lot of flavor. It is interesting to note that this Whiskey was first made in 1849 and is the first known wheated Bourbon. From the distiller, “Sweet and unusual floral notes and coupled with vanilla. The taste is very well balanced with sweet fruit notes, strong vanilla undertone and sharp spicy tones, with a cinnamon finish.” This is another shoe-in for your cocktail making needs at only $19.89 a bottle. I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the 90 proof W.L. Weller Special Reserve bottling available for only $16.99 for those of you looking for a nice wheater with a little lower proof.
Coming a little closer to home, for those of you familiar with the St. George Distillery located right here in the bay area, Alameda, to be exact, they are responsible for a wonderful wheated Bourbon called B&E ($34.99) which stands for Breaking & Entering. The reason they call it B&E is because unlike most of their other products it is not actually distilled by them in California. The Whiskey was produced in various unnamed Kentucky distilleries where it was aged for up to 8 years. The folks at St. George then purchased a few hundred barrels of varying ages and brought them back to California to blend and bottle. The result is a fantastic and unique Bourbon which is great on its own or if you’re feeling fancy blending into your favorite Bourbon cocktail. According to the folks at St. George, “bright, spicy, not-too-sweet Bourbon characterized by warm breakfast notes of maple, banana, butter, cinnamon, cloves. Cherry cola and eucalyptus/menthol are also present.” For me the banana bread and eucalyptus were especially prominent in this fantastic Kentucky Bourbon with a west coast spin.
Finally I thought it might be nice to finish up my brief intro to wheated Bourbons with a rather unique Whiskey, and I say Whiskey, because unlike the other Whiskeys noted here, it is not Bourbon. That is the Bernheim Wheat Whiskey ($29.99). Here the primary grain used is actually wheat, 51%, with the remaining 49% corn. This 80 proof bottling is a unique single barrel expression that was hand selected by our spirits staff. Because of its soft wheated profile I highly recommend this Whiskey for both the seasoned Whiskey drinker looking for something a bit different and the newbie looking for something with a little less bite. We are now getting into the perfect season for sipping Whiskey by the fireside, so I hope you will reach for one of these delightful Whiskeys to warm you up on a cold winter day.
Bill A., Beltramo’s Assistant Manager