Well done and tasty barrel proof wheat whiskey proves that wheat does have a place in whiskey making as a primary and not just an adjunct ingredient in a whiskey.
Notes: This is a relatively new whiskey for Heaven Hill but actually quite an old one as far as the United States is concerned. Wheat whiskey was actually the original whiskey of the United States, with hundreds of distilleries in New York state alone long before the whiskey rebellion and for a period of time afterwards. The use of corn and the advent of bourbon was something that happened long after wheat, and then rye whiskey had taken root in American culture.
Unlike rye whiskey, wheat did, however, seem to entirely die out as a category of whiskey until recently. Rye limped long and seemed to be circling the drain for a number of years after prohibition (and rotgut Canadian blended rye during and after prohibition certainly continued to destroy the reputation of the category). Rye has enjoyed a significant renaissance in recent years, and wheat, while not exactly burning up the whiskey category, seems to be making a comeback and have at least a toehold in the market. Heaven Hill came out with a Bernheim Wheat at least two years old version of this whiskey a number of years ago, then released the 7-year-old version that is more or less widely available, and have now released this, their Barrel Proof Lot A223. Aged seven to nine years in a new, charred oak barrel, distilled at less than 160 proof, and contains no coloring, flavoring, or blending agents. Mashbill is as follows; 51% wheat, 37% corn, and 12% malted barleyThis is the first release of this barrel-proof 7-9-year-old blend. It also seems like this will be a twice-yearly release, with the next one out in the fall of 2023. We will keep you posted!
Appearance: Clear as a silver bells tone, it is golden in color with some reddish highlights. Swirling seems to leave a very even coat on the glass with a crenelated edge forming with a few very thin legs, then some droplets forming. An interesting study compared to most whiskies which shows more and faster receding back down the glass.
First Impression: Honey, caramel, tree fruits, maple, butter, grain, and a slight dustiness of wheat and a little wheat germ oiliness. At 118.8 proof, it is still quite pleasant to nose and subtle for the proof.
Taste: Slightly oily entry, sweet and medium body, then drying to a biscuit finish.Honey, caramel, wheat, grain, and fruited touches of citrus, especially at the finish. A very pleasant and easy-to-drink whiskey that I complex without being overly aggressive in any way.
Drinks: A lighter spirit than rye, it stands in nicely with its own set of unique flavors and a bit less challenging . Interesting to swap out in a number of rye-based cocktails.
Bottle: The standard Bernheim Whiskey bottle with some notable changes. Tombstone shape (flask bottle as the shape is called, but certainly much larger) is attractive and easy to spot on a shelf. A graphic of a head of wheat is above the Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey is Silkscreened directly on the bottle front. Below is a black and parchment-colored label with BARREL PROOF in capital letters. On the right side, annotations on Batch, Proof, and Alcohol per volume with the mash bill listed at the bottom of the label.
Other: Check out the other Heaven Hill products we have reviewed over the years (Elijah Craig, Larceny, Parker Heritage, and Heaven Hill). We have quite a few!
Final Thoughts: A great starter whiskey for those exploring the world of whisky.Complex but not overly challenging. For the more experienced drinker, it also has its charms, and they should be able to pick out its many if subtle charms