wheated bourbon

Wheated Bourbon: This is Why Larceny is Your Dad

What is a wheated bourbon?

That’s a good question. I’m glad you asked. A wheated bourbon is a bourbon that has a mash bill where the portion that is normally rye has been replaced with wheat. Bourbon has to be at least 51% corn. The remaining 49% can be just about any grain combo, though most joints use barley and rye.

But bourbon is a sipping whiskey, so a high rye mash ticket makes whiskey, then leans toward the spicier end of the palate. Swapping wheat for the rye brings all the tasting notes of that grain to the nose and the tongue. Tasting notes for rye use descriptors like black pepper, spice cake, and cinnamon. Some distillers finish their rye in wine or port casks to mitigate the spicy profile. Bourbon descriptors are vanilla, caramel, and honey. It’s a smoother taste, with the distillers often finishing in charred oak with no extra flavor components.

Adding the wheat for rye just makes the bourbon tasting notes softer and sweeter. So, where a regular bourbon may have a powerful initial blast, a wheat forward bourbon comes on more gently, more subtly.

What are the top wheated bourbons?

Weller Wheated Bourbon

The first three wheaty bourbons are by Weller. Weller Antique 107 has wheat right up front, but the mash bill is a big secret. It’s bottled at 107 proof, and it is a favorite of bourbonites for its amazing pedigree. The whiskey comes straight from W.L. Weller himself who worked with John “Pappy” Van Winkle for years during prohibition distilling under a medicinal license. William Larue Weller is barrel proof wheat-on-top bourbon. W.L. Weller, the original wheatish bourbon, leads their collection and is one of the best known and most hunted wheatcentric bourbons because my god.

Redemption Wheated Bourbon

Maybe it’s the winter wheat. Could be the Connecticut climate. Maybe it’s something about where their source barrels are kept at the MGP facilities. For whatever reason, Redemption’s whiskey has people stalking the bourbon aisles. Their mash bill is the same as Old Elk and some other wheateriffic bourbons, but . . .  something about this whiskey is different. 

Old Elk Straight Wheated Bourbon

I mean, Colorado, right? They just do everything different. Old Elk Straight Wheated Bourbon keeps the corn mash to the minimum allowable for bourbon labeling—51%. Then they dial up the wheat to 45% with the last 4% all malted barley, and the result is a weird wheat-heavy bourbon whose flavor finds that pocket of toffee and caramel some bourbons keep in the background.

Larceny is the best wheated bourbon

The mash ticket for Larceny isn’t what you’d expect from the flavor. You’d think they were just like Old Elk or Buffalo Trace. Think again because their mash bill is 68% corn, then 20% wheat, 12% malted barley, which for a wheat-based bourbon, seems a little off point. But somehow, it works and maybe here’s why.

While I think Weller and Buffalo Trace (my house bourbon) have a purdy mouth, with warm amber flavors that kind of make you want to sit down and take it easy for a few minutes, Larceny has all that but with fat metal guitar licks and heavy drums. The nose doesn’t bloom like other wheaty bourbons. It’s all there when you pour it into the glass. It’s all there when you bring it up to your face holes: explosive esters that singe your nose hairs—but just for a second. Then it’s all good. It’s all honey and vanilla and sugar cookies with their edges burnt. 

Larceny works really well in some cocktails where rye is just too hot. Like a tamer old-fashioned. However, it does the opposite for drinks where the bourbon is too mellow. Use it to make your boulevardier pop. Use it in a Manhattan to wake it up.

F.A.Q.

What is wheated bourbon?

Legally, a bourbon mash bill is at least 51% corn with the remaining 49% comprised of barley and rye. However, there’s an unofficial subcategory of bourbon called wheated. Wheat replaces rye in wheated bourbon. This gives the whiskey a sweeter, softer profile.

Which bourbons are heated?

  • Larceny
  • Redemption
  • Garrison Brothers Small Batch
  • W.L. Weller Antique
  • Weller
  • William Larue Bourbon
  • Old Elk

Is Larceny a Wheated Bourbon?

Larceny offers three wheated bourbons: Larceny Barrel Proof, Larceny Small Batch, and Old Fitzgerald that replace rye with wheat in their mash bill and are wheated bourbons because of that choice.

Author: Bull Garlington
Bull Garlington is an author and columnist in Chicago who writes about the madness of travel, analog tools, food, wine, and whiskey. Garlington lives with [his attorney], smokes black cavendish, hikes the easy trails, and makes a mean gumbo yaya.