On Whiskey: The Wheat Experiment


On Whiskey is a monthly column on whiskey and whiskey drinks by Warren Bobrow. For more of this great column, click this logo.

On Whiskey is a monthly column on whiskey and whiskey drinks by Warren Bobrow. For more of this great column, click this logo.

To fully enjoy bourbon I believe there should be some food available to go along with it.  Not moribund fossilized crackers, nor mystery sandwiches without form or substance. To enjoy bourbon one must eat real food!  Imagine my delight when, in my mail, I received a few little 50ml bottles of something named: Wheat Experiment- 90 Proof.

If this didn’t perk up my ears, nothing would.

Buffalo Trace is known in the liquor industry as baby Pappy. Pappy as you may know is Pappy Van Winkle. This venerable brand, due to allocation difficulties, is all but impossible to come by.

May I suggest an alternative?

Buffalo Trace does what is known as an Experimental Series. I love when a larger distillery has a number of side-projects for the edification of their drinkers, sure- there is that component. But more importantly –  if a master distiller stuck to one recipe for his entire career, what a boring workplace that would be!  And if this is not interesting enough for you, these experiments may be purchased! I won’t tell you that they are inexpensive, which they definitely are not, but what you are purchasing with your hard earned dollars is history in the bottle. Why is it history?  Because once your bottle is empty, there are very few in the pipeline until they are depleted!  So may I suggest getting a few bottles?

The Wheat Experiment:  Ah… Wheated Bourbon… Can you say Pappy?  Yes, yes you can. Pappy Van Winkle is Wheated Bourbon. This experiment is wheated as well. But, is it Pappy?

Well, you can be the judge of that.

I enjoyed this tasting with a ham steak cooked to a crunchy turn in the cast iron pan. This ham steak is from my German butcher in Morristown, New Jersey – Hoeffner’s. They have been turning out hand-crafted sausages, hams and 28 day aged Prime Beef since the 1940s. I trust them to make foods that I adore, with a minimum of handling.

Their German recipes taste like history.

Ham is one of those things that go very well with bourbon tastings.  Why should this tasting be any different? I sliced some thinly on a plate and served these slices with Creole mustard bought down in New Orleans.  Sweet and Spicy!  If I want some bread, Pechters makes the handcrafted rye bread sing sweetly like a cool summer rain after a sweltering day.

Photo by Warren Bobrow

Photo by Warren Bobrow

Tasting Notes:

Wheat Experiment 90 Proof/Entry at 90 Proof

This is a swiftly enjoyable glass of whiskey.  The warming 90 Proof heat takes hold against my tongue and lips, burning slightly, but giving way to sweet notes of wildflower honey and brown butter.  There are some candied stone fruit flavors that coat the tongue and give immediate pleasure.  This is Pappy in a nutshell.  Gorgeous stuff.

Wheat Experiment 90 Proof/Entry at 115 Proof.

If there was a reason why we are meant to enjoy bourbon, this is it.  The formerly 115 Proof barreling is softer in the mouth than the 90 Proof-into the barrel version. I’m shocked by the softness of the mouth feel and the long lasting, sweet notes of caramel drizzled over warm, buttered beignets. This bourbon is masterful stuff indeed.  The mouth heat is less for some reason than the first sample tasted.  Not sure why?

Wheat Experiments 90 Proof/Entry at 125 Proof.

Oh my. Oh my. Oh my. If this isn’t Pappy, I don’t know what is.  Swirling around on my back teeth is a veritable tornado of caramel, heavy whipping cream, vanilla, simple syrup and bitters. I have a milk punch in every sip! This is not as hot tasting as the 1st sample, nor is it as soft in the mouth as the 2nd sample. This sample is just gorgeous stuff.  I taste another little slurp and find that flavors of sweet spring strawberries reveal themselves along with the aroma of freshly fried hush puppies made with yesterday’s cornbread and egg. I’m taking a third  sip and I’m finding that the buzz that I’m feeling is moving down my throat, to my chest and finally to my stomach. It’s marvelous stuff and I recommend it highly.

For a large company like Buffalo Trace to act like a much smaller distillery is remarkable in this day and age. It’s refreshing to taste interesting side projects like this one. It causes me to pay closer attention to the world as we see it today – with craft distilling becoming so important to the consumer at large.



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