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Style Take a look at: Heaven Hill Has One other Stellar Barrel-Proof Whiskey With the New Bernheim

Style Take a look at: Heaven Hill Has One other Stellar Barrel-Proof Whiskey With the New Bernheim

Whiskey fans generally adore Heaven Hill’s barrel-proof whiskey lineup, which includes high-ABV bourbons from its Elijah Craig and Larceny labels. Last year the distillery added a barrel-proof version of Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey to this crew, and while it’s still nowhere near as popular as the bourbon, the newest batch is worth seeking out.

For those who are unfamiliar, wheat whiskey, as defined by the TTB, must be made from a mashbill of at least 51 percent wheat—as opposed to bourbon’s 51 percent corn—and aged in new charred oak containers (which are virtually always barrels). Bernheim just meets that grain requirement with a mashbill of 51 percent wheat, 37 percent corn, and 12 percent malted barley, which makes it a pretty corny wheat whiskey. Regular Bernheim carries a seven-year-old age statement and is bottled at 90 proof; the barrel-proof version is aged between seven and nine years and bottled at cask strength. This obviously varies by the batch, which are released twice a year, and the new A224 (meaning the first batch, released in February of 2024) comes in at 125.2 proof.

As I’ve written about before, higher proof doesn’t mean better whiskey. In fact, sometimes it means worse whiskey. Nearly every brand has a barrel-proof expression in its lineup these days because people want to drink uncut and often unfiltered whiskey (legally it can be within two degrees of the proof at which it comes out of the barrel). I get it, undiluted whiskey is often more flavorful and you can control how strong you’d like your sipping experience to be. On the flip side, it’s questionable how enjoyable it is to sip a whiskey approaching hazmat levels above 130 proof, even if you’re adding water or ice, and sometimes it seems like it’s more about the flex than pleasure.

At 125 proof, the new Bernheim Barrel Proof is more in Booker’s territory than A. Smith Bowman, meaning it is something you can enjoy without blowing out your palate. There’s a high percentage of corn in the mashbill, but the predominance of wheat gives this whiskey a nice sweetness without completely covering up the spice. There are notes of orange-chocolate, green apple, cinnamon, vanilla custard, and black pepper on the palate, with a bit of earthy grass notes on the finish. There is some heat, as you’d expect, but it’s very manageable and the whiskey drinks very nicely when poured over a large ice cube.

There are some cask-strength American wheat whiskeys out there made from 100 percent wheat, like Journeyman’s Corsets, Whips & Whiskey and Dry Fly’s Cask Strength Straight Wheat Whiskey. Bernheim is made in the “barely legal” Kentucky style that Woodford Reserve also uses (albeit with slightly more wheat at 52 percent in the mashbill). That large percentage of corn kind of brings this whiskey closer to bourbon in terms of flavor, which is certainly not a bad thing. If you’re a fan of wheated bourbon who just can’t give up the Pappy hunt, you’re just looking for a tamer barrel-proof experience, or you just really like wheat whiskey, this is a bottle worth tracking down and trying.

Score: 87

  • 100 Worth trading your first born for
  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram 
  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

Source: Robb Report

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