The Whisper of Wheat
It’s that time of year again when lines form at liquor stores and people throw down chairs and tents to camp out for hours, or even days, for a chance to score the bourbon industry’s arguably most coveted bottle of bourbon: Pappy Van Winkle. However, for the rest of us who don’t land a bottle or maybe want something a little more accessible what are we to do? Well, Pappy is unique bourbon for a number of reasons, but one of the most important things that gives Pappy its unique and sought-after flavor is simple: wheat.
For the vast majority of bourbons, the mash bill is the same, granted with different proportions for different bourbons, but almost all bourbons start out with a mash of corn, rye, and malted barley. However, there are a few that substitute wheat for rye in the mash bill and the end result is a bourbon that has a much softer, rounded, somewhat earthier mouthfeel that is particularly well-suited for sipping neat. Yet, there’s only so much Pappy to go around so, what are the rest of us supposed to do? Pappy isn’t the only “wheater” out there but they are few in number when compared to their spicier rye-infused cousins. There are a few wheated bourbons that are both accessible and reasonably priced that are absolutely deserving of a place on your bar.
W.L. Weller Special Reserve: Any wheater fan out there knows this bourbon and probably looks for it every time they are in a liquor store. This bourbon has the same mash bill as Pappy Van Winkle, it’s just younger. They both come from Buffalo Trace as well. Add to that, this bourbon averages in the mid $20s for its price range and you have one highly sought after bottle. Weller Special Reserve only hits the shelves once a month so, it may take some searching as it goes quickly when it comes in, but it’s worth the hunt!
Larceny: A great wheated bourbon from Heaven Hill. This one has the same mash bill as Old Fitzgerald just slightly older and in a sleeker package. Larceny is a great bourbon and at only around $25.00 a bottle, it will surprise you with how smooth it is.
Makers 46: This is Makers Mark that is finished with additional oak staves being added to the barrel towards the end of the aging process. The additional oak gives this bourbon a richer, more robust flavor and mouthfeel. A very respectable offering from Makers Mark!
While Pappy may be one of the most sought-after bourbons on the planet, you don’t have to stand in line for hours or pay a fortune to experience one of it’s most defining characteristics:“The Whisper of Wheat!”