Looking to switch things up a bit? Or, perhaps impress your next gathering of your bourbon friends? Why not introduce them to some smooth-drinking wheated bourbons and whiskeys? While traditional bourbons utilize a mash bill containing at least 51% corn, the secondary grains are typically rye and malted barley.
Distillers long ago discovered that substituting wheat for the traditional rye grain resulted in a softer, smoother spirit. Think of bread – a rye bread tends towards spicy versus a wheat bread tends towards a softer, less harsh flavor. The same goes for bourbons and whiskeys that utilize wheat instead of rye. While Makers Mark is often touted as a wheated bourbon, look beyond the red wax. There are some other great bourbons utilizing this bread staple.
Old Fitzgerald Prime
Once the flagship of Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle and the Stitzell-Weller Distillery, this now Heaven Hill produced product still carries its original wheated mash bill of 68% corn, 20% wheat, and 12% malted barley. A far cry from its older (and more pricey) sibling Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond, for the price point, this is a nice addition to the cabinet that won’t break the bank. Toss in a label straight out of “Mad Men” and you’ve got a great talking point with your friends.
Introduced in 1992, this Heaven Hill wheated bourbon is named after John E. Fitzgerald. No, he wasn’t a master distiller. Rather, he was a bonded treasury agent with the keys to the storage warehouses. Seems old John knew where the best bourbon was and wasn’t bashful of helping himself. While undisclosed, this bourbon is thought to contain 68% corn, 20% wheat, and 12% malted barley. Standing up to stalwart Maker’s Mark (at a similar proof and price point), you’ll find more fruitier notes on the nose and better all-around balance on the palate that is approachable to the masses.
Wilderness Trail Bottled in Bond
Utilizing a unique “sweet mash” process, this upstart distillery has taken the time to do things right. Offered in a bottled-in-bond expression, and containing 64% corn, 24% wheat and 12% malted barley, this bourbon was worth the wait. With sweet corn, honey, caramel and vanilla flavors, this is a smooth sensation and worth every penny. For more insights, check out our review here.
Weller Special Reserve
This introductory version of the Weller series allows you to sample what many feel to be the same mash bill as the legendary Pappy Van Winkle line. Readily available in ample quantities just a couple years ago, even the entry level version – Special Reserve – is often removed to “the glass case”. Produced by Buffalo Trace, who is mum on the mash bill (other than it is wheated), you’ll find a host of sweet notes of caramel and vanilla layered with gentle oak that is well-balanced. If you’re lucky enough to find the 12-year expression, share this with special friends, as this compares exceedingly well to the Pappy line-up.
Woodford Reserve Wheat Whiskey
Lastly, while technically not a wheated bourbon, but rather this wheat whiskey, Woodford Reserve Wheat Whiskey is worth a try. With a mashbill of 52% wheat, 20% malted barley, 20% corn, and 8% rye, this is the newest in the 4-grain lineup at Woodford Reserve. Following behind the traditional corn-based Woodford Reserve Distillers Select, Woodford Rye, and Woodford Malt, this wheat whiskey imparts fruit-forward notes (I tasted cherries) followed with corn sweetness and a hint of S’more-like notes from the mated barley.