Anyone who knows me knows that I fully endorse the introduction of more wheated products. Forget wacky finishes and old corn whiskey, I want more brands to embrace a frankly underutilized grain. Wheated bourbons are already a hot mess at best when it comes to selection, a mess that becomes all the more scattered when looking for worthwhile options. And that doesn’t even take into account the dearth of wheat whiskey out on the market. I’d challenge most whiskey consumers to name one available wheat whiskey outside of Bernheim and Woodford.
More importantly, I’d challenge more distilleries to address this effective absence.
One of the few brands putting out wheat whiskey in some capacity is Old Elk. They describe the challenges of wheat whiskey as being similar to that of its rye counterpart. A fitting comparison, since they source from Ross & Squibb (known for the ever-popular 95/5 mash bill) and use an identical mash for their wheat whiskey. Perhaps most curious about these wheat whiskeys is they tend to be older than the wheated bourbons Old Elk put out. At least when talking about barrel picks. Where the bourbons have recently hit the 7-year mark, recent wheat whiskey selections were at 9 years.
I came into one of these decent-aged wheat whiskeys through a sample. This particular barrel (971) was selected by/for Wyoming Package Store and was bottled at 59% ABV. Pricing on picks of this age hover around $110.
Nose: Floral aromas atop a core of butterscotch, vanilla, and fudge with bits of orange. Has a marzipan note going on while hints of clove and cinnamon sit in the background. Some leather, cherry, and tobacco essence too.
Palate: Silky consistency. An interesting assortment of marzipan, licorice, and brown sugar flavors. Good, balanced presence of oak helps keep the sweetness in-check.
Finish: Floral characteristic creeps up with lingering tobacco and vanilla bean, followed by a distinct development of the licorice note. Orange and clove kick in on the tail-end.
Not what I was expecting. This is a peculiar pour and one that I can see splitting people pretty heavily thanks in large part to the marzipan and licorice overtones. I’m not usually bothered by the latter and can actually welcome it when well-integrated. As for marzipan, that very much reminds me of amaretto, right down to a cherry cordial association. It’s here that my enjoyment gets a bit hazy. I lean ever so slightly on the “like it” end of the spectrum for those flavors, but also wouldn’t call myself an outright fan.
Overall, I definitely gravitate towards the Old Elk wheated bourbons I’ve tried over this just based on profile. I do appreciate this wheat whiskey for what it is, and while I’d have my reservations about dropping over $100 for it, I’m still glad it exists and hope more come to market. My eyes just won’t be darting for a bottle the same they will for a wheated bourbon from the Colorado producer.