There is so much bourbon is being released every month and the varieties are endless. From High Rye to Wheated Bourbon, there are a lot of flavors to keep up with. We’ll talk here about the role that wheat plays in American Whiskey, and look at some of the brands you should expect to hunt.
Wheated Bourbon vs Wheat Whiskey
If you’re browsing your local liquor store shelves, you might find some bottles labeled as Wheat Whiskey and others labeled as Wheated Bourbon? So what’s the difference between Wheat Whiskey and Wheated Bourbon? Both are a subset of the American Whiskey category, but there are some distinct differences.
American Whiskey loves that 51% mash bill denotation, and that’s really the big difference between wheated bourbon and wheat whiskey. The latter of these two has a mash bill that is at least 51% wheat. It’s a completely distinct style. Now this grain may be mixed with others, like rye, barely, or corn, but wheat is the main player. Wheat Whiskey is often a bit lighter in color and has a sweeter palate.
Wheated Bourbon, on the other hand, is a subset of the larger bourbon category. To be a bourbon, whiskey must be distilled in the United States from a mash that is at least 51% corn, and be aged in new, charred oak barrels. It’s that 51% corn that is the magic behind a lot of the vanilla and maple flavors you may get from many bourbons, but what about the other 49%? In a Wheated Bourbon, that 49% is dominated by wheat (though maybe not fully). Not all distillers fully disclose their mash bills, but if it’s labeled as a Wheated Bourbon, (like Weller, the original Wheated Bourbon), you can rest assured that wheat is the second most prolific grain after corn.
If you want to compare the two different types of mash bills, consider these two brands: Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve Wheat Whiskey.
Maker’s Mark Bourbon
Woodford Reserve Wheat Whiskey
Wheated Bourbon Mash Bill
Historically, a bourbon mash bill has been at least 51% corn and then a mix of rye and malted barley to round out the rest of the percentages. The malted barley adds a bit of flavor and also helps with fermentation, while the rye adds spice and complexity of flavors. Anything bourbon over 18% is considered a “high rye” bourbon.
Supposedly, it was William Larue Weller himself who decided to forego the rye and replace it with wheat for the first time. Thus, all bottles in the Weller Bourbon Lineup make sure to brag about being “The Original Wheated Bourbon”.
Each distiller will likely use a different mash bill for their bourbon recipes, but as we’ve already mentioned, expect wheat to be the second highest percentage or grain the mash after corn. Some distilleries or whiskey brands will choose to make use wheat exclusively in that 49%, or they may mix in rye and malted barley as other flavoring grains.
A (mostly) exhaustive list of Wheated Bourbons and Whiskeys
Buffalo Trace Distillery
Some of the most fabled wheated bourbons come out of Buffalo Trace Distillery. We’ve already mentioned Weller a couple of times. Many/most of the bottles in the Van Winkle collection (including the Pappy Van Winkles) also use Buffalo Trace’s Wheated Mash Bill. 1792 Sweet Wheat is a Sazerac cousin.
W.L. Weller Special Reserve Wheated Bourbon Whiskey
In addition to these regular releases, the distillery has had some special Wheated Bourbon expressions.Back in 2016 the distillery released a wheated bourbon under the E.H. Taylor brand called “Seasoned Wood”. They’ve also released some experimental bottles from time to time.
Maker’s Mark Is Wheated Bourbon
Like the Weller line, Maker’s Mark is exclusively a wheated mash bill of delicious bourbon. They’ve taken this mash and really pushed the bounds of unique bourbon. They’ve pioneered stave aging to impart totally unique flavors into delicious bottles. Classic Maker’s is, of course, a must have for any home bar. But don’t sleep on their private selects, cask strength, or annual releases.
Bourbon Enthusiast x Maker’s Mark Private Select Bourbon
Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Bourbon 750ml
Heaven Hill Wheated Bourbons
From Heaven Hill, there are some other well known releases in this sub-genre of bourbon. Larceny, and the new Larceny Barrel Proof, are the most accessible wheated releases from Heaven Hill. Old Fitzgerald also carries this wheated mash bill. Growing in popularity, too is Rebel Yell.
Larceny Small Batch Bourbon
Rebel Yell Bourbon
Here’s a somewhat exhaustive list of wheated bourbons and some wheat whiskeys. If you think we’ve missed something, let us know in the comments. Otherwise, tell us your favorites!
- Old Elk Wheated
- Redemption Wheated
- Maker’s Mark
- 1792 Sweet Wheat
- Wilderness Trail Wheated Bourbon
- Oak and Eden
- Wyoming 88 Proof
- Gunnar’s Wheated Bourbon
- Balcones Wheat
- Parker’s Wheat
- Lone Elm Wheat
- Pappy Van Winkle, et. al.
- Old Fitzgerald
- Rebel Yell
- Jefferson Wheated
- Smooth Ambler Big Level