Bourbonr Guide to Wheated Bourbon

Typically, a bourbon mash bill includes three ingredients: corn (at least 51%), rye and barley. Distilleries replace the rye portion of the mash bill with wheat to create a “wheated” or “wheater” bourbon. Wheated bourbon is softer and often a sweeter bourbon. What does “soft” taste like? Eat a piece of rye toast next to a piece of wheat toast. You’ll quickly understand the difference. Legend has it that Marge Samuels, wife of Maker’s Mark founder Bill Samuels, made 150 different loaves of bread to select the original Maker’s Mark mash bill.

Who created wheated bourbon? William LaRue Weller (that name should be familiar to most) is credited as the first distiller to dump the rye for wheat. His name still occupies the label of several wheated bourbons. Weller’s brand continued on and eventually merged with A Ph Stitzel distillery to create the, now infamous, Stitzel-Weller. Stitzel-Weller continued to produce extraordinary wheated bourbon until it closed in 1991. As with most bourbon history, the story is more convoluted than the scope of this post. Ultimately, Buffalo Trace acquired the Weller brand and Heaven Hill got the Fitzgerald brand. Both brands are still alive and wheated to this day.

History lessons are great but where is the wheated bourbon today? Below is a list of all of the wheated bourbon on the currently on the market:

Wheated Bourbon

Everyone knows Pappy Van Winkle is a wheated bourbon. Most probably know the Weller line is wheated as well. Over the last year, Buffalo Trace released an Experimental wheated bourbon that pulled identical barrels from the first, fifth and ninth level of the warehouse. Also, under the Sazerac (Buffalo Trace’s parent) company, 1792 released their limited Sweet Wheat bourbon. Just announced by Buffalo Trace is their latest wheated bourbon, EH Taylor Seasoned Wood. Finally, there are multiple single oak project bourbons from BT’s wheated mash bill. DrinkHacker has reviewed most of them here.

Wheated mash bill - BT

Heaven Hill continues the wheated heritage with Fitzgerald and Larceny brands. Heaven Hill extinguished rumors that they were discontinuing the Old Fitzgerald brand. Keep in mind that in the same article they discredited the rumor that they were dropping the Elijah Craig age statement. With that said, I’ve been told that the Old Fitgerald brand is scaled back to make more room for Larceny. Larceny is good. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I’d still like to hear a straight answer. Heaven Hill released a 20-year-old Stitzel-Weller bourbon, Very Special John E. Fitzgerald. They also source wheated bourbon for Luxco under the Rebel Yell brand.

Wheated mash bill - HH

Maker’s Mark has famously used only one (wheated) mash bill for all of their bourbons. Not one for change, Maker’s Mark only had one brand until 2010 when they released Maker’s Mark 46. Looking for a wheated bourbon? Just find the red dripping wax on the liquor store shelf.

Wheated mash bill - MM

Jim Beam is late to the wheated bourbon game but released their Red Wheat bourbon in the Harvest Collection series. MGP also has some wheated bourbon in the works but it probably won’t be ready for a few more years.

Wheated mash bill - JB

Craft wheated bourbon roundup.

Wheated mash bill - Craft

 

46 comments

    I’m truly a wheated bourbon fan, but for anyone looking for a clear palate comparison between grain ingredients, Reservoir Distillery in Richmond, Virginia is the answer. They only use a 100% grain mashbill on their three whiskeys, Rye, Bourbon (100% corn), and Wheat Whiskey. It truly provides an clear delineation between the flavor profile of different grain ingredients in the mashbill.

    100 percent corn can not, by ttb laws, ever be bourbon. Bourbon must be a minimum 51 percent corn, but no more than 79 percent corn, by law, for a bourbon mash bill. I’m a bourbon distiller in Virginia.

    Actually I dont believe there is a such a limit(upper) placed on the amount of corn per the TTB .. HOWEVER there is a legal definitive statement on “Corn Whiskey” in that all spirits containing 100% corn be labeled as such ie “corn whiskey”, leaving the upper limit margin at 99.999% approx for bourbon.

    thanks

    After checking I can say there is no stated upper limit on corn mash % for bourbon, HOWEVER (See above) at 100% corn mash the legal requirement is that it be labeled as a “corn whiskey” with no exceptional allowance to be labeled as a “corn bourbon”. It seems the only limit would be when you reach the 100% mark.

    I believe David Nicholson from Luxco is wheated. Sourced from heaven Hill? The bottle design is the same bottle as the Old Fitz 1849 and Very Old Fitzgerald squat bottles. There is an embossed area for the sticker above the main label but they do not place a sticker on it. I wonder if the bottle mold is the same one dating back to the ’50s. You should do a story on the history of that bottle design.

    I’ve not been able to confirm if Luxco’s relaunch is still wheated. It’s also only available in a couple states so I left it off.

    I found a strange fact about David Nicholson bourbon recently. It’s an odd one and I never see this brand outside of the St Louis area. If you look at the label there’s a good chance it still has the Stitzel-Weller DSP-KY16 on it even though they quit using Stitzel juice in David Nicholson about 10 years ago from what I can tell. I’m pretty sure this is a wheated bourbon. It tastes a lot like the bottom shelf Old Fitzgerald and like you mentioned it comes in the same bottle.

    I forgot to mention, I was told by a knowledgable Kentucky bartender that brands are allowed to use up remaining printed paper labels on bottles as long as the ingredients and important info does not change. Since David Nicholson is less popular than it probably was at one time, they likely have a bunch of labels leftover to burn off. They can’t be selling much of it anymore.

    I think not having Old Fitzgerald Birthday Bourbon and Old Fitzgerald Single Barrel and focusing on the Larceny brand is a bad decision.

    Absolutely Agree. I just posted a rant on the subject before seeing your comment. Old Fitz has such a rich history and awesome looking label, who the hell cares about Larceny and the dumb story they cooked up about the name.

    I totally agree, the history of Old Fitzgerald should be revered in whiskey circles. The Larceny story is so fake. It is an insult to compare Old Fitzgerald to be compared to Larceny!

    Is Old Fitz available in Fla.? Can’t seem to find it in the Naples area.

    It apparently isn’t on the St. of Mich’s “preferred” list, either.

    I have not seen any Old Fitz for a couple of years when I picked up a couple of bottles of 12 year in Lex. Are they actively producing any?

    Is the Beam “Red Wheat” distilled at Beam or sourced? It seems odd that a distillery the size of JB would produce a single line for one distillate.

    Blake,
    Sonoma County Distillery makes a wheated bourbon recipe from gain to bottle on direct fire copper pot stills. It’s called West of Kentucky #1. Great stuff and getting better as the years go on. Check them out.
    Cheers.

    Garrison Brothers is a wheated bourbon. 74% Organic White Corn, 15% Red Winter Wheat, and 11% Barley. We even grow the Red Winter wheat on our own land.

    You list Willett as as a wheater, what product do they sell that is a wheater?

    There are a number of other craft distillers doing wheated bourbons. Garrison Brothers is noted. Wyoming Whiskey is wheated. Finger Lakes/McKenzie offers wheated in a barrel program, OYO Michelone Reserve is sold as a wheated bourbon but as explained to me, I believe it is a whiskey blend, Dry Fly 101 bourbon is wheated, and there are a a few more I have seen in passing.

    It seems so strange to me that Heaven Hill doesn’t do more with the Old Fitzgerald brand considering the high demand for the Pappy VW and Weller in the market. The craziness around the John E Fitzgerald release should have been a wake up call. Given the historic connection between Pappy and Old Fitz at Stizel-Weller, you’d think they would use that marketing angle to their advantage. I could be wrong but I think the Old Fitzgerald brand story is a hell of a lot more compelling than Larceny. To me, the Old Fitz bottle & label look a hell of a lot cooler than that horrible computer graphic on the Larceny bottle. At least I would understate the Larceny name and position it as Old Fitzgerald “Larceny” rather than the other way around. Seems like they are creating a new brand when it’s really not necessary.

    Does anyone have any Heaven Hill perspective on this topic? Have they ever discussed this?

    Blake: minor typo contained in this article. Probably only the producer (Suntory) would care, but you might want to know. The product is named “Maker’s 46” not “Maker’s Mark 46”

    The standard bourbon carries the name “Maker’s Mark” and the upscale product is simply “Maker’s 46.”

    As a side note, since the cask strength product is simply a barrel strength version of the regular Maker’s Mark, it carries the name “Maker’s Mark Cask Strength”
    Similarly, the barrel strength version of 46 (currently only available at the gift shop) carries the name “Maker’s 46 Cask Strength”

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