A WHEATED BOURBON
For many years, distillers have been experimenting with ingredients to create different bourbon flavors. More and more experiments are considering grains, yeast for fermentation, distillation methods, and barrel aging. An unofficial subcategory of bourbon called wheated bourbon is giving whiskey enthusiasts a flavor profile they won't soon forget...
What Is Wheated Bourbon?
As per the standard laws of bourbon manufacture, half the grain mash used in making bourbon must be corn. The rest of the ingredients are a mixture of barley and rye. Wheated bourbon contains at least 51% corn, a percentage which can go up to 70% to 80%, with the balance divided between barley and wheat. About 15% to 25% of the grain mash consists of wheat.
When wheat acts as the secondary flavoring grain, you obtain a different type of bourbon. When you remove the rye from the composition and replace it with wheat, you get wheated bourbon.
Wheated bourbon has the potential to become an instant favorite. Newbies and pro whiskey enthusiasts alike can enjoy the best wheated bourbon in cocktails.
History of Wheated Bourbon
Bourbon was first manufactured in 1789 by Elijah Craig. However, wheated bourbon didn't become a concept until late 1935, when the Stitzel-Weller Distillery produced it. Some believe William LaRue Weller was the first distiller to experiment with wheat as the secondary flavoring grain in bourbon. Eventually, Weller's brand merged with the A. Ph. Stitzel distillery to produce small batches of the best wheated bourbon at the time.
Since then, many distillers have experimented with the proportion of wheat in the mash bill, bringing a varied taste profile to wheated bourbon.
Deriving Alcohol From Wheat
Producing alcohol from grains is not an easy process. Wheat contains tightly packed proteins, but it also gives a good amount of elasticity to the mash bill, which helps the grain mash produce more delicious flavors.
Since the starch is not readily available for fermentation, malted grains are used in the mash to help initiate the process. They have enzymes that break down the long starch molecules in wheat and other grains in the mash bill into short sugar molecules. The yeast then consumes these disaccharide and monosaccharide sugar molecules to produce alcohol.
This process contributes to the reason why most wheated bourbons have at least 8% to 10% of malted barley to catalyze the fermentation method. Some distillers in the United States use lab-created enzymes for fermentation instead of malted barley.
As the secondary grain, wheat adds creaminess and gradual sweetness to the spirit. Unlike rye, which gives the bourbon a dominant spicy tone, wheat brings out the contrast and subtlety of other ingredients present in the bourbon. The best wheated bourbon provides a mellow finish and a more rounded mouth feel.
The wheat allows the corn's natural sweetness and the barrel's woody flavor to shine through instead of enforcing its spicy flavor like rye bourbons. It is a taste similar to when you eat a piece of rye toast against a piece of wheat toast.
In a three- or four-grain bourbon, if you subtract the rye from the equation, you will notice the peculiar cereal and fruity sweetness of wheat complementing the corn and oak flavor of bourbon.
Depending on the wheat used, the taste varies in fresh bread and toffee flavors with traces of butterscotch, honey, and caramel. The best wheated bourbon has a long and gentle finish.
If the bourbon contains rye and wheat in its mash bill, the resulting distillate has a different and complex taste profile. The presence of wheat enhances the spice factor of rye with the sweet depth of corn bourbon.
Some distillers add other exotic grains like oats, sorghum, buckwheat, rice, and quinoa. These grains add signature notes you won't find in the traditional bourbon flavor directory. The complex vanilla and caramel flavor, coupled with the woodiness of oak barrels of the best wheated bourbon, make for an entirely new variant of bourbon.
Modern Experiments in Wheated Bourbon
Over the past decade, consumers have demonstrated different preferences for bourbon. Today, distillers are experimenting with different compositions and combinations of grains in the mash bill while keeping the minimum 51% corn base as the only constant. These experiments have significantly boosted the popularity of wheated bourbons with heavy fruit aromas. The prominence of wheat subdues the harsh profile of bourbon.
The presence of wheat in the bourbon grain mash also influences the barrel aging process of the alcohol. The best wheated bourbon ages better within less time than traditional bourbons aged over many years. A new charred oak barrel is like a time capsule of flavor and aroma. The organic compounds in the wheated bourbon react with the oak to break down long chain protein molecules through oxidation and maturation.
The Best Wheated Bourbon Awaits
Wheated bourbons have cultivated a specific audience of enthusiasts. Consider Dareringer, a whiskey that wraps those indulging flavors in it with an intoxicating nose of cherry and sherry. On the palate, Dareringer features flavors of currants and raisins mixed with hints of almond and vanilla. The layers of complex flavor in this modern whiskey make it suited for drinking neat or in a cocktail.
The development of this super-premium whiskey results from toasting barrels over a wood-fired flame before they're charred, a process that brings out the sugars from deep within the wood fibers. These sugars mingle with the distillate used in the aging process to give Dareringer a distinctive complexity and depth of flavor.
This super-premium straight bourbon whiskey results from a process that takes fine wheated bourbon aged in alligator char barrels and allows it to rest in handmade Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks from Spain's Casknolia Cooperage. An intimate blending of no more than 15 barrels at a time results in a distinct flavor profile inherent in small batch production. Without chill filtering, this 93-proof whiskey bears the most authentic barrel for bottling flavor.
If you are among those who prefer the deep flavors of bourbon without the peppery spice, the best wheated bourbon is waiting for you.