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Bernheim Wheat Whiskey Review

Bernheim Wheat Whiskey, 45% abv (90 Proof), $30/bottle

It is quite rare that you will find a Wheat Whiskey. In order to be classified as such, 51% or more of the grain makeup of the mash bill (grain recipe) must be wheat. In this case, Bernheim’s wheat content sits right at 51%, with the remaining 49% coming from corn (predominantly) and barley. Wheat is a fragile, soft grain for a whiskey, so it’s more commonly used as a component in Bourbon (which is at least 51% corn and most of the time sits at 70+% corn), adding a soft, round quality. The folks at Bernheim are doing something totally unique using wheat as the majority grain.

Color: Deep Bronze

Nose: Crisp and light with graham cracker, lemon pie, all spice, and toasted oak. There is a dry whole grain quality to this nose.

Palate: Beautifully balanced, but the flavors are well defined with lemon candy, vanilla, and light honey sweetness that isn’t sticky in the least. The sweetness is far from cloying. Cherries really shine through (kirsch??) also followed by heavily toasted bread and dry oak. Sweet spices (clove, all spice) emerge from mid palate through to the finish.

Finish: For such a light, airy whiskey this finish is really pretty long. Again the cherry fruit shines through in a more cherry candy or maraschino flavor, then toasted oak and sweet spice really takes over.

Overall: Bourbon lovers expecting to drink a rich, sweet, intense whiskey need to pause for a moment. This certainly has some bourbon-like qualities, as it should with a significant portion of corn in the grain recipe. However this is much more elegant, refined, and subtle. The flavors are light and fruity, and the sweetness is present without overdoing it. For Scotch Lovers that feel bourbon is “too sweet” or for those Bourbon Lovers looking for a nice, easy sipping change up – this is a great one. There is something for everyone here – it’s inviting, well made, and I look forward to another glass.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.7 (Very Good/Excellent)

29 Comments

  1. Texas says:

    Thanks for this review. This is one you don’t hear about a lot. My wife gave it to me out of the blue for my bday last year because it sounded different (I had never mentioned it). It was a little too light for me neat, but over ice man it was delicious. One of the few bourbons (except Jim Beam White) that I prefer on ice.

  2. I will have to give Ice a try and see what it does for it. It’s absolutely a light, clean whiskey. It will be too soft for some really passionate bourbon lovers out there, but it still might be something to lighten things up a little.

  3. Texas says:

    That’s the amazing thing about whisk(e)y..how differently some respond to water/ice. The Bernheim came alive for me over ice..whereas the Pure Kentucky X) I have (107 proof) is wonderful neat, but when I add water or ice it becomes bitter and harsh….

  4. charles says:

    thanks Jason,
    at 30 bucks i’m gonna score this and add some variety to my cabinet. never looked for it. is it pretty much in all the stores??
    charles

  5. Charles, give it a go for sure. You should not have any trouble finding it around here. Should be fairly accessible. Let me know if you have any trouble.

  6. Greg says:

    To friends and family that ask what they should try, I usually suggest either Bernheim or Makers. Both are easy drinkers and don’t have the offensive alcohol burn. I find the Bernheim to be an odd ball as in, what’s the point? Makers, while a wheat bourbon, really covers the market for those looking for a softer, sweeter whiskey so I’m a little baffled over this offering from Heaven Hill. To produce a pure wheat whiskey that’s not a cousin of another label doesn’t make any sense. When this first hit the shelves, it was close to $40 but now hovers around $25. the price drop to me says it’s not moving so HH lowers the price. If this was a big mover, the price would have stayed static or maybe even gone up placing this in the mid shelf to lower end premium category. I’ve seen too many great labels disappear over the last number of years so it won’t surprise me if HH kills this label at some point. It’s not a bad whiskey, I’m just not sure this product gets any attention (as Texas and Charles pointed out) for long term shelf presence.

  7. JMac says:

    Following Charles comment, I live in an area where Ive had difficulty finding many of the whiskys reviewed on the sour mash manifesto, but even most stores in my area carry Bernheim on a regular basis. Ive been tempted several times to pick up a bottle of that or the Rittenhouse Rye (which if I am correct is also from HH), but wasnt sure if it would be worth it. But I guess this review clears it up. Thanks Jason.

  8. Greg, Bernheim’s distillery is really well known for producing great wheated products. There’s even speculation that some of the Old Rip Van Winkle Whiskey stock has come from Bernheim in addition to Stitzel-Weller. That may be myth, but it speaks to their ability to produce good wheated products. It’s probably just easy for them to produce this particular one because of that capability.

    Now, as for the “odd ball” thought, I see your point. If I had to venture to guess I’d say it’s possible the 51% thing is something they viewed as a target in order to call this thing a Wheat Whiskey. Perhaps they felt being one of the only wheat whiskey on the shelf would give them an advantage. Given the love of wheated bourbons, perhaps they over thought that a little bit. But they can clearly claim to be one of the only ones in that segment of whiskey.

    I cannot speak to the case production and sales of this product, but I’ve seen it almost every shop where I live. Pricing in whiskey is a real enigma. Today if you look online you will see Bernheim as high as $40. Walk into a shop and you are bound to see if far less. I’ll buzz the guys from Heaven Hill a note and see if they can enlighten us on the volume this stuff does. Thanks for the comments as always Greg. Good insight and perspective.

  9. I am not sure what your tastes are or what flavors/style you love to see in whiskey (intensely spiced, sweet, soft, etc. etc). If you like softer, more subtly flavored whiskey this is a great one. If you like more aggressive stuff this wouldn’t be the one for you unless you were consciously looking for something a bit different. Also I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble finding many of the ones I review. I fashioned this site to cover some toughies every now and again, but for the most part I want to make sure folks can find them. What state do you live in again? Maybe I can point you to a site that can ship to your state. Also let me know any specific ones you want to try and I’ll see if I can help you locate them.

    As for Rittenhouse Rye – awesome stuff! Thanks for the comment.

  10. Greg says:

    I’m not knocking the wheat whiskey but going it alone on the open market is an odd choice. Dry Fly does a wheat whiskey but that comes from a craft distillery. You are correct, Bernheim has produced very good wheat bourbon (e.g. Parkers) and you are also correct that Bernheim has fed some of the Van Winkle as well as the Weller line of bourbons. In fact, PVW 15 is speculated to be a blend of various masbhills to include Stitzel, Bernheim and Buffalo Trace. Sadly, PVW15 is going away this year and being replaced with Old Rip Van Winkle 15 year (the predecessor to PVW15). I believe this change reflects a shift from blended wheat bourbons to straight BT wheat bourbon. There’s been no news release but the gossip is afoot. There’s also been ad content recently seen in spirits magazines that have the PVW15 missing and the ORVW15 in its place. I’m now on mad search for PVW15

  11. I have been exchanging some emails with Julian Van Winkle to try to confirm and/or debunk some of these myths. But understandably, this line of questioning might not be what he’s able to answer. But that’s the question, if all the 12 an under wheated product is coming from BT, which it is, will the next version of 15 be an all BT product as well? It’s so funny to read the comments and rumor mill on this stuff. Some say it’s sitting in vats at BT and they are just trickling flow to make it last as long as they can. Some say it’s a mix of a number of distilled products (Pappy was a fan of the blending). Some say it’s still aging in barrels at SW. Which one is it? It’s anyone’s guess.

    However I’d be surprised if they dropped the PVW15 name for ORVW15 designation. They might, but that would certainly shock me a little. Too much of a foothold in the market. BT is following their recipe, has fantastic aging facilities, etc. So there’s no reason to believe it won’t be fantastic whiskey similar in quality to what we get today.

    Oh what we will do for Bourbon. I’ve locked up a couple bottles of 15 also. In March/April another (likely TINY allotment) will hit and it’ll be a race to scarf ‘em up.

  12. JWC says:

    Jason, I thought I read somewhere that Julian had decided that only the juice from S-W would get the labels with Pappy’s face on them. If one of the current assumptions/rumors is true (PVW15 being dropped for ORVW15 very soon), I guess Julian is sticking to his original thinking. However, if they were to drop the PVW line when the S-W juice is completely gone (haven’t they bottled and stored the last remaining S-W juice?), then within the next 3 years, the entire PVW line would be gone and we’d have ORVW and Lot B. Like you, I’d be shocked if they dropped the use of PVW – it’s too valuable.

    Moreover, I don’t think most of the people buying it have any idea what S-W juice is or even what S-W stands for. I was speaking with a few friends that buy Pappy products now because of me and when I told them about the S-W juice, etc., they had no idea what I was talking about and why it would make a difference.

    I can tell you that this Spring and Fall, I will be stocking up on the PVW’s – even more so than usual. If the BT PVW15 or ORVW15 is just as good as the S-W PVW15, it would be great – great bourbon for the future and great bourbon in my bunker. If the new 15yo is not as good as the S-W juice, I still have great bourbon in my bunker. The missus may not think so but I see it as a can’t lose scenario.

  13. You know this is a hard topic because I don’t think people really know the truth here. I mean the rumors are that the last of the Pappy 15 has been dumped. Many have been told it’s sitting in stainless steel tanks at BT. Who really knows for sure. Chuck Cowdery has posted some seemingly informed posts about this topic. If anyone is in the know it’s him, but I still don’t think we can say for sure. I believe the Pappy 20 and 23 stock is still fine for some time, it’s the younger 15 that’s in trouble. It makes sense what you and Greg are saying about ORVW15, but I just can’t see them going away from Pappy on the 15 label. We’ll see.

    You hit on an important point – save your pennies and be ready for Spring! Cheers man!

  14. sam k says:

    Getting back on track here, I was surprised at the mix of flavors I encountered with my first bottle of Bernheim. I was expecting Maker’s Mark light (and I’ve got nothing against Maker’s), but got more than I bargained for with Bernheim. At $27 in PA, it’s not a bad deal, and is a nice fork in the American whiskey road, I think.

    By the way, this comes from someone who’s been a rye whiskey fan for more than 30 years. Go figure.

  15. Agreed Sam. This is a big step beyond Maker’s Mark for me. A good one for the cabinet. Hope you are well.

  16. JMac says:

    I live in TX, but I live in a college town (College Station) where the two local liquor stores seem to cater to the mixed drink party crowd. While I have never even seen EWSB here, my girlfriend picked me up a bottle of ’99 and 2000 EWSB while in Houston for Christmas, and said it was in almost every liquor store she went to, so I’ll just have to start going to nearby towns in search of anything more than Jack Daniels or Wild Turkey.

  17. Brian says:

    First, I must say that I am in NO way someone that KNOWS whiskey in any way shape or form. I have had experiences with Jack Daniels, 1792, etc. but, in NO way can I say what is and what is not a good quality or bad quality whiskey. BUT what I can say is that today I read this page, watched this video and was intrigued to see what this, Bernheim, tasted like.

    My thanks go out to you, for your expertise in describing this whiskey, in all its ways. It was spot on to say the least.

    I have found a whiskey that is a class above most as far as I am concerned. IF there is one similar to this that you or anyone on this site considers “a must” for whiskey lovers, then by all means, post it and I will try it.

    Thank you again sir,
    Brian
    (LoatherOfAll)

  18. Brian, thanks a lot for visiting and for the comment. Glad you enjoyed it. Honestly Bernheim is a very unique whiskey. There are none that I can think of that would compare to its flavor. I’m wondering if you enjoyed it because it’s light, mellow, and smooth, yet still full flavored. If so, I’d recommend looking at something like Old Weller Special Reserve. It’s a wheated bourbon. Also check out Four Roses Yellow Label. Neither will taste like Bernheim, but I am trying to pinpoint a lighter style for you. Those are good places to start at good price points as well.

  19. Brian says:

    I will have to look into those as well. I do enjoy a bold whiskey from time to time but, like you said, it was light and mellow which drew me to it. I will let you know how those other whiskeys do for me. Do you mind if I ask how long you’ve been sampling and reviewing whiskeys? Also, are there other drinks you review?

    Thanks for your time in this page AND for responding so expediently to my post.

    Brian

  20. Brian, I’ve been drinking whiskey seriously for about 8 years now. My background is in food. I had grand visions of becoming a restauranteur. Then I woke up one day with a little family and realized the restaurant biz was a tough life that I had to be ready for. I wasn’t. So I transitioned into the staffing services industry 12 years ago. Whiskey, like wine, like food, like beer, etc has so many nuances and variety that I was instantly drawn to it. Being born and raised in the Southeast I grew up around folks drinking Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey. I love global whiskey, but my real passion is American Whiskey. Also, I am somewhat obsessive, so I quickly just ravaged information, did my own tastings, reviews, etc. etc. Inspired by all of the great resources on the internet I felt like I could help fill some holes…….and here we are.

    Also, whiskey for some reason, transcended all others and became my favorite. So it’s really all I focus on when it comes to reviews, but I enjoy many many other things.

    Thanks for visiting. I do appreciate it.

  21. Racso says:

    there is no bernheim distillery. there is, however a heaven hill distillery. i’ve watched a few of your videos tonight and it’s clear to me you need to do a bit more homework.

  22. Racso, there absolutely is a Bernheim Distillery. It’s the same distillery that produces the whiskey I reviewed that you commented on. It is however owned by Heaven Hill.

    Honestly I don’t have a problem with anyone disagreeing with me. I also don’t have a problem being wrong when I’m wrong. It happens. However, you would do well to follow the advice you gave to me in your comment. There is a Bernheim Distillery.

    I am also open to hearing any other “incorrect” information you have noticed in watching/reading my reviews. Please do share. And thanks for watching.

  23. Ryan B says:

    Usually when I read through blogs on the internet they are really old posts… But I just realized now that this is a recent thread of conversation, so I want to chime in.

    In highschool, I tried beer for the first time ever, and I honestly hated it. It didn’t matter what type of beer it was; I simply did not like the taste.

    Ever since drinking beer in college (light beer at first), I developed a taste for it over the years, and now find myself enjoying craft beers, while despising American adjuncts. I want to be able to enjoy whiskey, just neat or with a splash of water. No mixers. I feel that, just like beer, it will be worth it.

    However, with beer, I have moved away from the overly bitter and strong IPAs, and I have moved towards sweet witbiers and brown ales, hefeweizens, etc. I think that the same will apply to my palate when it comes to whiskeys.

    I just bought my first bourbon this week – Knob Creek – any honestly its a little hard to get down just because of the potency and bite. However, I know that with drinking it after some time, I will get used to the taste and start to enjoy noting the distinct flavors and nuances of the spirit.

    On my list to try next are Bernheim, Maker’s Mark, and Basil Hayden’s, in that order. What do you guys think about those choices, particularly Basil Hayden’ (I know the other two are well received, but rarely hear of the latter, although it is supposedly “mild”)?

  24. Ryan, I think you will enjoy the Bernheim, and Makers. Basil is softer in so much that the proof point is at 80 vs. a much more common 90 proof for the more premium American Whiskeys out there. It actually has a lot of spice notes to it because of it’s high rye content. I would recommend you also try W.L. Weller Special Reserve also.

  25. I was fortunate to receive a pint straight from the barrel (126.6 proof) and I wish they would bottle it as is. It was plainly delicious with no cut of water. Neat whiskey drinkers should have a bottle of this on their bar.

  26. Alan says:

    Great review Jason. Really enjoy the Bernhiem a light alternative to the heavy hitters (which I love). Also love the WL Weller 12yr. It goes for about $23 here in Conyers, GA. (don’t be afraid of the screwtop!).
    Do you know the age of Bernheim?
    Thanks,

  27. Chris says:

    Hello & Nice Review! I am trying to track down some info on a Bernheim 17 yo bottling, I got a sample from a friend I trust and the label said distilled 4/6/93 and bottled 2010 at 69.75% Have you ever heard of such a bottling; or how it fits into their product line? It is rather good and I’d like to track down a bottle if I can.
    Thanks.

  28. Chris, I’ve not had this, and would certainly love to try it, but not sure it exists today that I’m aware. Looks like you might have gotten a hold of something very limited!

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