View Full Version : Wheaters vs. Rye
I want to taste the difference between the different mashbills of American whiskeys (not just bourbon!). Since I primarily enjoy bourbon the most, I want to learn the characteristic tastes of rye and wheat so I can recognize them when they appear. I plan to do this by buying 2 whiskeys this coming weekend, one thats 100% rye and one thats (as close to) 100% wheat as possible. For the rye, I know that Jeffersons Rye is supposed to be 100%, and my local liquor store always has some. They also have plenty of Bulleit Rye which is 95% if I can't get the Jefferson. As far as the wheat goes though, I have never heard of any whiskey thats 100% wheat. The only "wheat whiskey" I know of is Bernheim, but I don't think I've ever seen any in a local store and I don't even know what mashbill is on it.
Do you fellas have any recommendations for a pure rye/pure wheat/pure anything else experience? Is there a better way to "educate my palate" than testing single ingredient mashes? I know there is no shortcut to figuring this stuff out, but I figure a logical approach is best :cool:
Well, Bernheim is about 51% Wheat, and the only "Straight" Wheat whiskey that I know of on the market. It tastes more of Wheat than a Wheater, which shows off more of the corn, rather than the wheat. My understanding is the wheat in a Wheater mashbill allows the corn to shine, rather than Rye-recipe Bourbon, where the Rye grain is a powerful presence.
If you take barrel aging out of the equation, you could taste the Koval line-up side by side. Their white whiskeys use 100% of the stated grain, so you can taste an un-aged 100% Rye vs a 100% wheat vs a 100% millet. Some members dislike white whiskey, but I've done these side-by-side, and I find it fascinating.
Back to your Rye question, I would go with Bulleit over Jefferson's. The Rye in the LDI mashbill really stands out, IMHO. If you can find a Willet Indiana Rye, whether it's 2, 3, 4, or 5 yrs, I would go with that.
I know Dry Fly does an all wheat whiskey. Corsair does a 100% malt whiskey as well as some other types so look at them. If your local store don't carry some of the look at some online retailers. For a 100% rye there is Whistlepig and Masterson's as well as a few micros that do aged and unaged ryes.
Buying very high-rye straight ryes and things like Bernheim Straight Wheat as an attempt to understand bourbon is a fallacy. If you want to know what wheaters taste like, drink wheaters. If you want to know what Bernheim Straight Wheat tastes like, taste Bernheim. This is not to say anything bad about the 95% ryes, but a high-rye bourbon will do just as much (or probably more) to help you understand the influence of rye in a whiskey.
At this point, beyond bourbon and rye, "other American straight whiskeys" is a bit of a novelty category, unfortunately. The bulk of American whiskey is bourbon and nearly-bourbon rye. But in my opinion, the main thing is, if you're enjoying the journey and the whiskeys you're drinking are enjoyable to you, you're on the right path. If trying the few selections you can find of 100% wheat, 100% rye, etc. gives you more enjoyment than anything else, then good luck on your hunt for these bottles, they're not the easiest to come by!
It never hurts to taste more whiskeys, IMO. If you're doing some exploring, try an aged corn whiskey. I would recommend (in this order): Balcones (True or Baby Blue), Mellow Corn BiB, Platte Valley. There are others but Mellow Corn and Platte Valley are easy to find and Balcones' are the best I've had.
Having had a bottle of Berhneim, I'd say it was interesting but not all that great. I'd also say it didn't allow me to find the wheat any better in wheated bourbons. Rye on the other hand was interesting, especially a WT or Rittenhouse, as they are more like 51% rye. The higher ryes are good, but also so different I couldn't really compare them with bourbons due to the lack of corn. Don't let this dissuade you from trying the different whiskeys though.
My recommendations would be to try one of the corn whiskeys listed above, especially the Mellow Corn or Dixie Dew or Platte Valley. An aged corn whiskey would be preferable. You will be able to pick out the corn influence in any mashbill from there.
Then also try some Weller and some Old Grand Dad or Old Forester, both higher rye bourbons. Look at the whiskey tree thread to find out some mashbills of things you've tried. You'll be surprised how fast you will gain insight just from tasting things and knowing what they are. Trying different distilleries products, and picking out their "house style", be it yeast or still or cooperage, would be the next step in my opinion.
Ultimately, I find the outliers so different from bourbon it's hard to actually get your palate acquainted with the grain influences. I think if we did blended whiskeys, like scotch, you may gain more insight, but as we mash together things are a bit less cut and dry.
Let us know how it goes!
Well fellas, I have had a breakthrough. Its really amazing how much your taste can change over time. I started out a few months ago with a bottle of MM, and had to cut it with water and ice or I felt like my throat was on fire. Soon after I developed the opinion that cold whiskey is disgusting and has a completely different sickly taste to it than room temperature does, so I drank it with no ice and a splash of water to cut the burn. In the past month, I have gotten to the point where I like my drinks neat (and not just whiskey, gin and rum too) and the burn is minimal, and in fact I've grown to like it. That warming feeling has gotten to be my favorite part! I had still been drinking MM because I could start to pick up on some vanilla flavors and I really liked it, and decided it was my favorite whiskey.
Just yesterday I bought a bottle of bulleit rye, and sat down for a tasting session. The bulleit rye tasted spicy, but not as sweet. It had a lot of subtle flavors that I could notice but not describe. I then went back to the MM, and it tasted stale and oversweet compared to my rye experience, like old candy. I tried some WT101 for some middle ground, and found that I enjoyed it at that moment more than I ever had before. I used to think it was overpowering (I don't know whether it was because of the rye or the proof) but it seems that I've "grown into it" and enjoy it much more now.
I'm pretty stunned at how the same drink can taste completely different at different times. I'm not sure whether it was because my tasting ability has increased/changed, or whether comparing the drinks really brought out the subtle flavor differences. Either way, I'm going to get some Rittenhouse tomorrow, because I might just be a born-again rye guy :cool:
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