The growth in the Bourbon industry has led to a growth in the American Whiskey category as a whole. It started with Rye Whiskey. I remember around 2010, Jimmy Russell was telling people that Rye Whiskey has tripled production at Wild Turkey – “they make it three days a year now!” I imagine that the production of rye has tripled again at Wild Turkey since Jimmy made that statement. There has been a growth of other styles of American Whiskey as well as that of Rye Whiskey. These are the whiskeys that I think people should try. I picked two Corn Whiskeys, two Wheat Whiskeys and two “American” Whiskeys that don’t fit into any particular category. They are all very good whiskeys worth trying.
I will start with the Corn Whiskeys. Corn Whiskey has to be at least 80% corn and aged in either used or uncharred barrels, if aged at all. Corn Whiskey is the only whiskey in the world that does not have to be aged in oak barrels. I have picked these two whiskeys because they are aged products. I find unaged Corn Whiskey uninteresting since it all tastes similar. I prefer aged Corn Whiskey.
- Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whiskey: 86 proof. Aged at least six months in oak. This whiskey is made from roasted blue corn by Balcones Distilling in Waco. Texas. It has lots of corn flavor with a touch of vanilla and oak. Westport Whiskey & Wine sells it for $49.99 for a 750ml bottle.
- Mellow Corn Bottled-in-Bond Corn Whiskey. 100 proof. Four Years Old. This is a Heaven Hill Distillery product. It has a very nice buttered popcorn and pepper flavor that I find very pleasing. You cannot beat the price of $16.99 at Westport Whiskey & Wine for a 750ml bottle.
The next category is Wheat Whiskey. Straight Wheat Whiskey has to be made using at least 51% wheat and aged in new charred oak barrels. Before prohibition, there were wheat whiskeys being made, but it has always been a small category. In fact, the category had died out with prohibition, but was revived by Heaven Hill after they purchased the Bernheim Distillery. They found that they had more wheat on hand at the distillery when they acquired the distillery, than they needed to make their wheated Bourbon brands. They decided to make a wheat whiskey and it was a success.
- Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey. 90 Proof. Seven Years Old. This is the Brand that Heaven Hill created with all that leftover wheat. It is a “barely legal” Wheat Whiskey, using just over 51% wheat, with corn and malted barley being the other grains. The resulting flavor is full of caramel sweetness and a nutty flavor that reminds me of a wheated Bourbon. Westport Whiskey & Wine sells it for $39.99 for a 750ml bottle.
- Corsets, Whips and Whiskey Wheat Whiskey. Cask Strength – 119.3 Proof. No Age Statement. This whiskey is made by the Journeymen Distillery in Three Oaks, Michigan. The distillery is located in an old factory that made corsets and buggy whips in the 19th century, thus the name of this whiskey. It is made from 100% wheat. It has a caramel, citrus and pepper flavor. It can be hard to find outside of Michigan, but I have seen it on the internet at $59.99 -$69.99 for a 750ml bottle.
The last two Bottles are both from the Michter’s Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. The category is simply called “American Whiskey” because the whiskey does not fit into any particular category.
- Michter’s Sour Mash Whiskey. 86 proof. No Age Statement. This product is called “sour mash” because it has less than 50% corn and less than 50% rye in the mash bill so it does not fit into either the Bourbon or Rye whiskey categories. It has a nice butterscotch flavor with a little baking spice and oak. Westport Whiskey & Wine sells it for $49.99 for a 750ml bottle.
- Michter’s Unblended American Whiskey. 83.4 Proof. No Age Statement. This product is not a Bourbon because they use re-used barrels in making it. It has a rich French vanilla, citrus and oak flavor. It also sells for $49.99 for a 750ml bottle at Westport Whiskey & Wine.
I hope you give these whiskeys a try. They are not Bourbon or Rye Whiskeys, but they are well worth purchasing and added to your whiskey collection.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller