The weekend before we celebrated the independence of our nation the Malt Nuts ditched the malt and adopted a corn focused mentality. In honor of the country we call home we eschewed the imports and gathered a lineup of America’s Native Spirit, but being the kind of folks we are it wasn’t just any old bourbon. Oh no, we honed in on the highly popular and well loved wheated bourbon – A.K.A. wheaters.
Being one of the few Malt Nuts who already straddles the Corn Nut line Barry handed the talking stick over to me for the night and I dished out the data. It was a chance to unpack the trivia I had stored away in my brain about bourbon and chat at length about corn, wheat and oak. Trivia like this.
- Wheated mashbills have been around since the early 1700s and were used when rye couldn’t be sourced.
- The first company to use a wheated mashbill as their standard was Stitzel-Weller after prohibition because they needed something that tasted good young. They even released a 3-month-old bourbon to help jump start themselves post-prohibition. Kind of like the craft whiskey scene today.
- Maker’s Mark’s Bill Samuels got his recipe and even his starting yeast from Stitzel-Weller but made changes to suit the profile he was going for.
- And some other stuff I can’t think of off the top of my head right now.
Throughout the night we had a lively discussion and I got a lot of questions about what legally constitutes as a bourbon. For those who attended, or anyone reading who is interested, here are the legal requirements for what makes a bourbon.
- Made in the USA. Not just Kentucky, anywhere in the USA, Kentucky just happens to make most of it.
- Mashbill is at least 51% corn
- Distilled at no more than 160 proof (80%)
- Put in a new oak container at no more than 125 proof (62.5%) – Yes a charred oak bucket could count, but could only be used once.
- There is no actual aging requirement, it could be seconds old
- All bourbon less than 4 years old must carry an age statement
- To get the straight designation it must age for at least 2 years in a charred new oak container
- Straight bourbon can be a blend of bourbons but they must all be from the same state
- Straight bourbon can’t have anything but water added to it.
- If it’s a bonded bourbon it must all come from the same distillery, distilled in the same “season”, aged for at least 4 years, bottled at 50%, have nothing but water added and display where it was distilled and bottled (if different). It was once known as “the good stuff” for these reasons.
That’s a LOT of information, but instead of dwelling on things you could just as easily go look up on the TTB yourself how about we focus on the whiskey we drank that night instead? As usual everything was blinded and split into rounds which broke out like this.
Corn Nuts Wheated Bourbon Tasting Round Breakout
- 46% or less ABV
- Craft wheaters
- Cask Strength wheaters
- William Larue Weller Faceoff
Quite the line-up ‘eh? 15 Wheated bourbons all together make for a heck of a night and a heck of a re-cap. We have a lot of ground to cover so let’s get on with it.
Corn Nuts Wheated Bourbon Tasting – 46% Or Less ABV
1A: Larceny: 46%
- Nose: Caramel, hazelnuts, vanilla, oak, baking spice, biscuits, oil and light dark fruit.
- Palate: Dark fruit, caramel, hazelnuts, vanilla, baking spice and oily nuts.
- Finish: Medium -> Caramel, hazelnuts, vanilla, oak, biscuits and dark fruit.
- Overall: B (83-86) Decent bourbon with a good sweet delivery. A bit low on the oak though.
1B: Old Fitzgerald Prime (2011): 43%
- Nose: Butterscotch, caramel, oak, vanilla, baking spice, dried dark fruit and clove.
- Palate: Caramel, vanilla, oak, spice, dark fruit and cinnamon.
- Finish: Medium -> Peanuts, graham and toffee
- Overall: B (83-86) The fade made me instantly think Heaven Hill. The palate and aroma come across nicely.
1C: Weller 12 years (2013): 45%
- Nose: Dried dark fruit, spice, caramel, touch musty and a bit soapy.
- Palate: Dried dark fruit, spice, caramel, musty and lightly soapy.
- Finish: Long -> Caramel, toffee, oak and corn.
- Overall: B (83-86) It’s light, oaky and rustic but not very complex. Open for 1 year with less than an OZ taken out (still in neck) and it’s so vastly different than its twin it’s ridiculous.
1C: Weller 12 years (2013): 45%
- Nose: Dried cherries, caramel, oak, brûlée, tannic and rustic.
- Palate: Corn, caramel, oak, biscuits, dried dark fruit and spice.
- Finish: Long -> Corn, honey, caramel and spice.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Great nose, light palate but an overall balanced experience. This whiskyey was bottled only minutes apart from the one above and both bought at the same store at the same time.
1E: Weller Special Reserve – Binnys Single Barrel (12 Years): 45%
- Nose: Acetone, toffee, herbal, nuts, caramel and oak.
- Palate: Caramel, oak, spice, oily nuts and spice.
- Finish: Short -> Caramel syrup and raw corn.
- Overall: B- (80-82) Light and sweet bourbon.
1F: Cabin Still 4 Years (1976): 40%
- Nose: Acetone, tannic, perfumy, goji berries, cinnamon, herbal and buttery.
- Palate: Caramel, raw corn, vanilla, olde time candy, cinnamon and tannic.
- Finish: Long -> Caramel, corn and spice.
- Overall: C (73-76) Light and funky and a bit off. Not something I want to drink regularly.
Corn Nuts Wheated Bourbon Tasting – Craft Wheaters
2A: Cody Road 4 years (12-16): 52.5%
- Nose: Young oak, dark fruit, caramel, brûlée, apricot, mint and vanilla.
- Palate: Young oak, toffee, fruit, anise, sugar, herbal and cinnamon.
- Finish: Medium -> Young oak, toffee, fruit, anise.
- Overall: B- (80-82) Tastes like a craft whiskey…
2A: Cody Road 2 years (14-16): 52.5%
- Nose: Young oak, spicy hop-like citrus, dried fruit, candy and spirity vanilla.
- Palate: Young oak, spicy hop-like citrus, dried fruit, anise and spirity vanilla.
- Finish: Short -> Young oak and spirity vanilla.
- Overall: C+ (77-79) Tastes like a younger craft whiskey, but it’s better than 1F.
Corn Nuts Wheated Bourbon Tasting – Cask Strength Wheaters
3A: Maker’s Mark Cask Strength: 55.6%
- Nose: Dark fruit, nuts, spice, oak, caramel, vanilla, toffee and a roasted note.
- Palate: Dark fruit, nuts, spice, oak, caramel, vanilla, toffee and some orange peels.
- Finish: Long -> Oak, orange, spice and caramel.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) A solid oaky and dynamic bourbon.
3B: Old Weller Antique: 53.5%
- Nose: Dark fruit, oak, herbal, leather, vanilla, biscuits, mint, corn and toffee.
- Palate: Dark fruit, oak, herbal, leather, vanilla, biscuits, mint, corn and toffee.
- Finish: Long -> Oak, spice, dark fruit and caramel.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Good stuff. Heavy on the cherries and vanilla but balanced by the oak.
3C: Old Rip Van Winkle 10 years: 53.5%
- Nose: Caramel, oak, dried dark fruit, spice and vanilla.
- Palate: Tannic oak, dried dark fruit, caramel, corn and toffee.
- Finish: Long -> Oak, spice, dark fruit and caramel.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) A good solid oaky bourbon. This is a lovely sip.
3D: Michter’s 10 years: 47.2%
- Nose: Nuts, caramel, dark fruit, oak, spice, toffee and vanilla.
- Palate: Oak, spice, dried dark fruit and dark sweets.
- Finish: Long -> Oak, dried dark fruit, spice and nuts.
- Overall: B+ (87-89) Quite good. Oak heavy with a touch of nuttiness across the senses
3E: Rebel Yell 10 years (2016): 50%
- Nose: Oak, roasted grain, spice, herbs, biscuits and cinnamon.
- Palate: Oak, cherries, roasted grain, dried strawberries, spice, herbs, biscuits and baking spice.
- Finish: Long -> Spice, cocoa, oak and nuts.
- Overall: A- (90-92) Holy moly this is dark, rich and… unctuous. Yes please!
Corn Nuts Wheated Bourbon Tasting – William Larue Weller Faceoff
4A: William Larue Weller: 67.7%
- Nose: Oak, roasted grain, cherry heavy dark fruit, spice, herbal, cinnamon and biscuity.
- Palate: Oak, roasted grain, cherry heavy dark fruit, spice, herbal, cinnamon and biscuity.
- Finish: Long -> Honey, oak, Coke A Cola, dark sweets and grain.
- Overall: A (93-96) At this point in the night I’ve had a LOT of bourbons and this still stands out. This is awesome.
4B: William Larue Weller: 61.7%
- Nose: Oak, toffee, dark fruit, baking spice, nuts, cocoa, leather and a bit of pepper.
- Palate: Oak, dark fruits, toffee, roasted pit fruit, cocoa, leather, vanilla and a bit of pepper.\
- Finish: Long -> Oak, cherry heavy dark fruit, roasted grains, leather and spice.
- Overall: A (93-96) Goooooooooooooooooooooooood. Definitely my favorite of the night. Even stands slightly above 4A and at this point in the night that’s saying something.
In the past, I’ve received some questions about how we keep the tasting blind when some bottles have iconic or easily recognizable shapes. The answer is quite simple, we decant them into other bottles so they all look relatively the same.
Anyways, that’s it for the Corn Nuts for 2017. We’ll only be deviating from the Malt Menu once a year, but we’re already planning and working out the next one and it’s going to be good!
Till next time, cheers!
P.S. In-case you were curious, the stick mentioned is metaphoric. We don’t actually have a talking stick!