Today, I am reviewing a whiskey I have wanted to review for a while now – Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey. I have always been curious about this whiskey, but I always suspected that I would not like it since I have never been a big fan of wheated bourbons. However, my experience with Bernheim just goes to show that whiskeys (just like people) can surprise you. This is a unique whiskey from Heaven Hill, a distillery that prides themselves on making many different types of American whiskey well, and selling them to folks at reasonable prices. Just like a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Bernheim is aged for at least three years in charred American White Oak barrels. The difference with Bernheim is that the mash-bill is 51% wheat, with the remainder filled in with corn and barley, whereas bourbon must be at least 51% corn. There is no age statement on the bottle, but my guess is that Bernheim is comprised of whiskey between five and nine years old, averaging about seven years old. The truth is, though, I have no idea how old this whiskey is, and I would love some insight if anybody knows. Bernheim Original is bottled at 90 proof (45% abv).
On the nose, Bernheim reminds me of a George Dickel whisky more than a bourbon. There are notes of oats, honey, granola, sweet corn, agave nectar, and fresh bread. The nose is very pleasant and airy. The palate continues many of the same notes with a medium-bodied entry. The sweet, bready notes on the palate remind me of the sweet flavors that come from an all-Pilsner malt beer. There is also some corn sweetness, some honey, and some clove notes. The finish is medium in length, definitely longer than I expected it to be. It is a drying finish, with toasted oak, French bread, malt, and caramel all coming into play.
Overall, this is a pretty good whiskey that really surprised me. I was expecting to hate it, but there is really a lot more complexity than I thought there would be, especially considering how soft this whiskey is. Bernheim Original is certainly not for everybody, but if you enjoy the flavor profile and mouthfeel of George Dickel, then I highly recommend giving Bernheim Wheat a try. It drinks softer than bourbon, but manages complex and sweet flavors throughout the sip. Heaven Hill continues to impress me with their line of very good whiskeys at great values (see Rittenhouse and Evan Williams). My grade: B. My Price: $30-35/750ml. At the price point, this is a great change of pace from bourbon or rye, and it is always a crowd pleaser.