I’m always a proponent for more wheated products. Utilized correctly, the grain can bestow some wonderful profiles. There are times a wheated bourbon or wheat whiskey can also serve as a good curveball, since they sometimes possess a floral quality more commonly associated with rye. Yet the market continues to feel cornered by a handful of brands, with only a fraction of those being reliably available. This often makes being a wheat fan both tiring and frustrating with sparse glimpses of excitement.
One of these glimpses recently came in the form of Driftless Glen doing a limited run of wheated bourbon single barrels. I recently discovered the Wisconsin distillery’s products in my area, complete with surprisingly competitive pricing. Considering my above point, I’m surprised they’d make a wheated bourbon such a restricted release. Perhaps they want to gauge reception to the picks and then decide if incorporating it into the permanent lineup is worth serious consideration?
In any case, the first barrel to go out to a private group was recently released for the r/bourbon barrel program. I had to pass on the chance to purchase a bottle, but came into a couple ounces of it from a recent sample swap. The barrel in-question is 5 years, 5 months old and was bottled at a surprisingly low barrel proof of 101. The mash bill is reportedly 55% corn, 35% wheat, and 10% distillers malt flour.
Nose: Light, soft, and mildly sweet. Somewhat floral and confectionary, almost like powdered donuts. What I imagine a bakery smells like prior to opening on its first day. Opens up on post-sip with a more defined vanilla and butterscotch combo, along with some orange. Gentle wood influence and walnut or praline dust.
Palate: Mildly rich viscosity; drinks above its proof. Bit of a cream cheese Danish note going on with barrel spice for good measure. Lemon pastry and a present yet understated vanilla note. Pralines and cream.
Finish: Soft flavor and texture builds over a fairly long finish, reminding me of Entenmann’s cakes. Wood influence slowly becomes more apparent over time, along with a generous hug.
I find myself in a similar position to when I tried Driftless Glen’s proofed down Single Barrel Rye: intrigued, but not fully won over. The overall experience is fun and mildly interesting, with the recurring pastry and confectionary flavors comprising the core of the experience. I appreciate this since said notes are closer to what I’d expect to find in an Irish whiskey. To that end, Driftless Glen might have a unique and easily identifiable profile to develop and expand upon. And I hope they do.
There’s a good amount of promise hinted at by this selection. Easy though it may be to jump to conclusions based on that statement, it’s best taken at face value. If this barrel was a way for Driftless Glen to test the waters with a wheated product, I’d encourage them to go beyond short-lived barrel selections. Besides this being a great time to entice fellow wheat fans, their flavor profile is distinct and enjoyable enough to potentially keep drinkers intrigued. A home run this pick is not, but it is a welcome sway in an otherwise uneventful current.