Monday, May 21, 2007

Tonight's Tipple

Tonight's tipple is the last of a bottle of Bernheim Original Straight Wheat Whiskey, which I picked up shortly after it hit the market last year. In the parlance of American liquor laws, "straight" implies that the mash used to make the whiskey has at least 51% of a particular kind of grain. Until Bernheim Straight Wheat came out, the only straight whiskeys that I had ever seen were Bourbons (51% or more corn) and rye (well, you can probably figure that one out). I suppose that the genesis of this whiskey was the small number of "wheated" Bourbons on the market -- those Bourbons that use wheat instead of rye as the secondary grain in the mash. Wheat is supposed to make the finished spirit sweet and mellow, and the wheated Bourbons that I've tried (Maker's Mark, the Van Winkle family of Bourbons, Old Weller, Rebel Yell) have had those characteristics. Because of this, I had had high hopes for Bernheim Wheat, despite the high sticker price (around $40 a fifth).

Alas, those high hopes were dashed, at least partially. The problem is that the two dominant characteristics of the whiskey that I can discern are this strange minerally aroma and a grainy taste that I had previously associated with corn. As it spends time in the glass, it develops some vanilla and caramel aromas, which are pleasant, but those are just not enough to make me like this that much. I believe that I've read that this whiskey has been aged 4 years. If so, I think that it could benefit from more time in the barrel. I don't think that I'll be buying another bottle.

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