Over the last 10 years or so, the bourbon market has exploded with wheated options as our taste for wheat increases. Names like Weller and Pappy Van Winkle have helped direct the trend, but there are now dozens of other brands stepping into the spotlight with their own unique offerings. Unlike other bourbons, wheated bourbon relies on wheat, rather than rye or barley, as the secondary flavoring grain, resulting in a smooth, sweeter tipple with less bite than you’d expect of bourbon, but bigger flavors and headier aromas. If you’re ready to try some out for yourself, these are the 10 best wheated bourbons to hunt down.
10. 1792 Sweet Wheat – $35
A finely balanced whisky that’s sweet but not cloying, smooth but still memorable, 1792 Sweet Wheat is lovely enjoyed neat or on the rocks. The soft, creamy mouthfeel makes it an incredibly easy tipple to enjoy, even for newer members of the bourbon drinking collective.
9. Jefferson’s Ocean Special Wheated Mashbill Voyage Bourbon – $82.99
Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea series was launched in 2012 as an experiment between master blender Trey Zoeller and OCEARCH, a non-profit that studies marine species, to discover what kind of impact aging bourbon at sea would have. It turned out to be a good one, resulting in a dark caramel-hued tipple with a bold, single malt quality that’s designed to be savored.
8. Redemption Wheated Bourbon – $41
Described by liquor.com as a highly underrated gem and a great price point for a style that is highly sought after, this bourbon from Indiana distillery MGP is made from 45% wheat and aged for four years, resulting in a soft, smooth bourbon with enough sweetness to please drinkers new to wheated bourbon, and sufficient complexity to appeal to more experienced enthusiasts.
7. Wyoming Whiskey’s Wheated Bourbon – $52
Historically, Wyoming hasn’t been on many people’s radar when it comes to wheated bourbon, but thanks to Wyoming Whiskey’s Wheated Bourbon, that could be about to change. A uniquely flavored spirit with a finely balanced palate, it offers a sweet, smooth drinking experience with enough spicy undertones and complexity to be memorable.
6. Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky – $24.99
You don’t have to spend several thousand dollars on a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle’s 15 Year Family Reserve to enjoy a very fine glass of wheaten bourbon. Named one of the best wheaten bourbons on the market by nextluxury.com, this very affordable bourbon from Larceny is aged for six years to reach the perfect flavor profile. After opening with aromas of fresh bread, toffee, and traces of butterscotch, it settles into a flavor profile of caramel, honey and warming spices, rounding out with a long, gentle, and perfectly smooth finish
5. Old Fitzgerald – $200
Launched in 1870, Old Fitzgerald is one of the oldest and most respected bourbon brands around. Owned by Heaven Hill Distillery, it’s bottled in bond at the age of at least 4 years old at 100 proof. It’s released once in fall and again in spring, but waiting lists usually fill up long beforehand, so get your name down now. If you can’t get your hands on the Bottled-in-Bond variety, it’s worth checking out the much cheaper, lower-proof Old Fitzgerald Prime, which is readily available in a handful of states at around $15.
4. Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey – $86
If you’re looking for a credible and slightly more affordable alternative to Pappy, you might want to point your wallet in the direction of Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey. As hiconsumption.com says, next to Pappy, it might just be the most sought-after wheated bourbon around, and for very good reason. Winner of a silver medal at the 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition (one of the fiercest competitions in the industry), it used to be available in Texas only, but has since spread the love around the rest of the US. Made from organic corn, wheat, and barley, it’s a rich, wonderfully complex tipple with deep aromas of vanilla, nutmeg, and butterscotch and a perfectly balanced flavor profile of caramelized oranges, oak, and melted butter.
3. Maker’s Mark Cask Strength – $40
Priced at just $40 per 375-ml bottle, Maker’s Mark Cask Strength certainly won’t be breaking any banks. But despite the small price tag, it’s got the flavor profile and complexity of a bourbon double the price. Rich enough to be poured in a bowl and eaten as a dessert, it’s a sweet but sophisticated offering. Notes of burnt cotton candy, caramel, honey, and warm vanilla are perfectly tempted by a backdrop of spicy undertones, light medicinal notes, and a long, oaky finish. If you’re looking for a superbly balanced wheated bourbon with a ton of complexity and a reasonable price point, it’s too good to miss.
2. Old Weller Antique – $218
Since whiskey geeks discovered that Weller is basically Pappy (it’s made using the same mash bill at Buffalo Trace, albeit aged for different periods in different warehouses), the price has skyrocketed and availability has plummeted. The 12-year expressions are almost impossible to find, but the Old Weller Antique should just about be possible, even if it takes some hunting. It’s worth the search though – with a full-bodied flavor of sweet fruit notes, spiciness, and vanilla, a complex taste, and bold, cinnamon finish, it’s a lucky drinker who gets their hands on a bottle of this.
1. Pappy Van Winkle’s 15 Year Family Reserve – $3,999.99
It’s harder to find than a needle in a haystack, with only 7000 cases released each year. The price is also eye watering, with each bottle fetching around $3,999.99. But there’s a reason Pappy Van Winkle’s 15 Year Family Reserve is one of the most famous and coveted wheated bourbons in the world – it’s the best. Made using the exclusive Van Winkle family wheated-recipe, the bourbon spends 15 years maturing in deep-charred heavy oak barrels to reach the optimal level of sweetness and oaken flavor. On the palate, expect notes of caramel, corn, and oak with a smooth, silky finish. If you can find it, pour it, and drink it before your credit card bill shows up, you’re in for a treat.