Wheated Bourbon, with its distinctive smoothness and unique flavor profile, has been capturing whiskey enthusiasts' hearts for centuries. This blog explores the history, production, and taste profiles of two renowned wheated Bourbons: Rebel Bourbon and David Nicholson Bourbon. Take a tasteful journey with us as we discover how wheat enhances the exquisite qualities of these spirits.
There is a fascinating history behind wheated bourbon that dates back to the early 19th century. While several mash bills from the 1810s mention wheat or rye as flavoring grains in whiskey, the term "Bourbon" first appeared in the Western Citizen newspaper in 1821, when Stout and Adams advertised whiskey for sale by the barrel, the first known advertisement using the word "bourbon" to describe whiskey. These early mash bills may have been used to make whiskey that became Bourbon in the future.
There are no written references to wheat in Bourbon during the rest of the 19th century and in the two decades leading up to Prohibition. Due to wheat's higher value for making bread, rye became the most popular grain for making Bourbon since it was lower in cost. However, a few distillers have used wheat in their Bourbons, such as Henry McKenna, who was previously a mill owner.
During Prohibition, Stitzel-Weller Distillery was among the distilleries permitted to produce beverage alcohol to replenish medicinal spirits sold to pharmacies. They produced wheated recipe Bourbon after Prohibition. In records, Stitzel-Weller experimented with the wheat recipe for decades, finding it tasted better at a younger age than other recipes. This was crucial since they needed mature whiskey in just four years.
Many of the brands established by Stitzel-Weller - such as Weller, Old Fitzgerald, Rebel Yell, Cabin Still, and a few others - would become synonymous with quality, particularly if they were distilled between 1935 and 1972, during the Van Winkle family's ownership of the distillery.
Eventually, Stitzel-Weller shared their wheat recipe with T.W. Samuels, who founded Maker's Mark. While Maker's Mark added its own unique twist to the recipe, it acknowledged the use of wheat to flavor it. With this transparency, wheated Bourbons are back on the market, inspiring others to experiment with this captivating whiskey-making style.
It is important to note that wheat has a distinct effect on the final product when it is used as a flavoring grain. By replacing the spiciness of rye with wheat, it results in a smoother and sweeter Bourbon with a softer and sweeter taste. By eliminating rye's spice, the other flavors can shine through, resulting in a less spicy Bourbon that is more approachable. As well as adding to the overall complexity of the final product, wheat contributes to its overall balance and mouthfeel.
Among wheated Bourbons, Rebel Bourbon has a loyal following for its robust flavor and well-balanced character. It shares notes of caramel, vanilla, and toasted oak that make it a smooth and satisfying drink. As well as linking with the historical Weller recipe, this Bourbon was popularized during the Rolling Stones' tour of the 90s when Kate Richard declared it his favorite Bourbon and by Billy Idol's song Rebel Yell.
Located at the same distillery as Rebel, Lux Row Distillers, David Nicholson's 1843 features a distinctively different flavor profile. It has a velvety texture and subtle sweetness, making it an enjoyable Bourbon with hints of dark fruit vanilla and oak.
Wheated Bourbon has a long and storied history, and its popularity continues to grow. The use of wheat for flavoring adds distinctive qualities to Bourbon, giving it a smooth, mellow taste profile. It is ideal for both beginners who do not enjoy the spice of rye and Bourbon lovers who want a smooth, long finish.
You might want to give those bourbons a try!
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