51% winter wheat, 39% corn, 10% barley malt. 45% ABV.
It’s cold outside now in Austin and we’re back at it with the whiskey reviews. Last week, I wanted to try a new wheat bourbon. I’m only really familiar with WL Weller, a staple over at C&W, and it’s such a reliable bottle that I’ve rarely ventured out to see what else is out there. The Weller, which we’ve reviewed here a while back, features a chewy, satisfying flavor and stays away from oversweet qualities or astringency that might be endemic to a wheat whiskey. It was against the Weller standard that I rolled the dice on the Bernheim Original.
Three of us settled on the porch, each with different cigars but splitting the Bernheim, a few splashes each and neat. By itself, the Bernheim is astringent. If you’re unfamiliar with this taste, do you know how you’ve choked down Robitussin as a little kid, at the direction of a parent or a school nurse? The first part of Robitussin, out of those little plastic caps, is not that bad. It tastes a little bit rich, round, like licorice. But the end – what we call the backsip – is the rough part. It makes you pucker your lips and grimace unrecognizably. The Bernheim, without any water or ice to open itself up, has the same effect. So, because we like to enjoy ourselves and not feel like we are taking medicine, we added some water.
Room-temperature water opened up this bottle very well. The Bernheim only needed a splash, and we could taste some vanilla, cedar and of course the wheat. Grant, who had joined us on the back porch for the night, mentioned that a couple of big ice cubes were his favorite way to water down a nice whiskey. I agree with this. You may taste something different in the drink when the ice is at various melted levels; we were fresh out of cubes, so water had to do. Either way, we were drinking a wheat bourbon on the back porch – hard to complain otherwise.
Even though some water saved the night, it’s difficult to justify the Bernheim Original for the price. The 750 ml bottle ran for about $28, the same price point as WL Weller. It’s a thinner, less developed wheat bourbon, and Weller is just the superior product in this field. If you happen to need a wheat bourbon for a particular sort of cocktail, the Bernheim is excellent – a couple of days later I used it for a hot toddy kind of drink with a cider, and the sharpness complemented some of the sweetness. But if you’re hoping to sip something straight, neat or with an ice cube, spring for a different wheat bourbon. I’m continuing the hunt for something to beat WL Weller.