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The Best Wheat Whiskeys And Wheated Bourbons To Drink This Fall

Corn is still king in US whiskey (bourbon anyone?). But in recent years, another grain has come into prominence. There’s a chance you’ve never even thought about it, but wheat whiskey and wheated bourbons are coming on strong in the whiskey game.

Like bourbon, with its 51 percent (or more) corn content, wheat whiskeys must be made up of at least 51 percent wheat. They also can’t exceed 160 proof at distillation and must be aged in brand new, charred barrels. Even though the minimum amount of wheat in the mash bill is 51 percent, many wheat whiskeys are much higher and the results are obvious — with these spirits carrying a softer, milder, and even floral flavor as opposed to the peppery spice of rye or caramel sweetness of corn.

The same goes for bourbons with up to 49% wheat. “High wheat bourbons are typically soft and delicate,” explains Chris Patino, co-founder of Raised by Wolves in San Diego. “Especially when compared to their more traditionally parsed out whiskey counterparts.”

Wheat whiskey’s popularity has made way for new expressions from brands coast-to-coast, along with a boom in bourbons with high wheat content (usually referred to as “wheated bourbons” as opposed to “wheat whiskey,” as they don’t contain 51 percent wheat). To help you pick a few starter bottles we asked some of our favorite bartenders for an assist.

Woodford Reserve Wheat

Emmanuel “Manny” Pressley, bartender at Brabo Brasserie in Alexandria, Virginia

I’ve also been a big fan of Woodford’s new Wheat Whiskey. Woodford always delivers a solid product and this is no exception. This new wheat blend has a substantial amount of apple flavor and really brings an added layer of flavor to cocktails. I think this is going to be a popular back bar feature. It’s approachable and mixes well with other flavors.

Bernheim Original

Matt Sharp, bar director/partner at Bosscat Kitchen & Libations in Houston

I really like Bernheim 7-year straight wheat whiskey. It has hints of toasted oak and caramel that make this great for cocktails. It’s the first and the best.

Weller Special Reserve

Drew Hairston, beverage manager at Dirty Habit in Washington, DC

My favorite wheated whiskey has to be Weller Special Reserve, or generally anything from the Weller portfolio. They have a wonderful mythos–the legendary Julian Van Winkle worked at and owned the Stitzel-Weller distillery. His oldest mashes and methods are the ones found here, not the ones from the newly branded Van Winkle distillery that was opened in 1972, years after the original Old Rip Van Winkle came out before Prohibition.

The Weller line is vastly more affordable, but still quite coveted. The addition of wheat to these whiskies opts for a smooth and subtly sweet flavor that works wonderfully with the baking spice and dill flavors you get from the oak, while omitting the additional spice you get from adding rye grain.

1792 Small Batch

Marc Borel, beverage director of Rainbow Lodge in Houston

We love working with the 1792 line of whiskeys. Made by the same folks who’ve created EH Taylor, Blanton’s and Weller’s, 1792 Single Barrel sits on our Whiskey Wall, and 1792 Small Batch plays a prominent role in our Barrel-Aged Manhattan, available only at Rainbow Lodge.

Dry Fly Wheat Whiskey

Allie Klug, bar manager at Cleo in New York City

I’ve always been partial to Dry Fly Wheat Whiskey from Spokane, Washington. They use all locally sourced wheat but what I really enjoy is that they use a lower char on their barrels. Wheat is delicate and more subtle nuances and a lighter char allows those to come through.

This bottling shines with sweet dried fruit and buttered toffee.

Weller 12 Year

Stephen George, beverage director at 20|Twenty in Carlsbad, California

My favorite “wheated” Bourbon would have to Weller 12 Year Bourbon, if you’re lucky enough to find a bottle. The entire Weller lineup is great, the “Reserve” and the “Antique 107” also over-deliver. The sweeter profile of the wheat does add a distinct layer of complexity, that you can’t mistake. Enjoy this treat neat or with a nice rock.

Old Fitzgerald 13 Year Bottled In Bond

Sean Beck, beverage director of H Town Restaurant Group in Houston

My favorite beyond Old Fitzgerald 13 year bottled in bond. It’s a bit of a trophy hunt, but the nose is gorgeous, it gets better with age and has a pretty endless finish. The nose is a mix of pecan shortbread cookies with some roasted peach jam on top. If we are talking bottles you can find then I’d opt for the always great, always consistent and available Maker’s Mark Cask Strength. Shows more toffee and marmalade notes than basic makers and has more secondary barrel flavors.

Larceny Bourbon

Jalin Roseboro, bartender at 54thirty in Denver

My favorite wheated whiskey is Larceny, because its perfect balance of wheat, corn and barley makes for a smooth, flavorful whiskey. It’s great in cocktails or for sipping on its own.

Masterson’s 12 Year

Ben Gummere, bartender at Field Brewing in Westfield, Indiana

3 Badges Masterson’s 12 year wheat. It’s a 100% wheat mash bill. This delicate wheat holds strong at 100 proof, yet provides such a brilliant array of flavor, with light vanilla, citrus, and caramel notes coming through beautifully.

William Larue Weller

Hailey Coder, lead bartender at The Park Bistro & Bar in Lafayette, California

William Larue Weller. William Larue Weller (allegedly) was on of the first distillers to switch from rye to wheat, thus where the whiskey got its name. It has an amazing balance of fruit and sweetness. It’s earthy and rich with a candied sweet heated finish. Overall perfect neat or with a nice big ice cube.

Pappy Van Winkle

Guy Goldstein, sommelier at Arba in New York City

For the crazed fanatic there is one answer, Pappy Van Winkle! If one is looking for the affordable versions, Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond is a great expression of subtle notes, herbaceous and delicious.

Weller Full Proof

Chris Patino, co-founder of Raised by Wolves in San Diego

Full Proof is big and bold and extremely straightforward, like a super firm, but not overly aggressive handshake, with eye contact. It’s a beautiful thing.

Writer’s Pick: Cedar Ridge Wheat Whiskey

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Iowa’s Cedar Ridge is making a name for itself with its bourbon. But you definitely shouldn’t sleep on its wheat whiskey. This very smooth, velvety whiskey has hints of pepper, honey, caramel, with a subtly dry finish.

Writer’s Pick: Wyoming Whiskey Single Barrel

Not a wheat whiskey, Wyoming Single Barrel is a wheated bourbon. It’s complex, nutty, and has hints of honey, caramel, toffee, with a sweet toasted oak presence. Definitely a bourbon to keep an eye on.

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