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.