Review: Bernheim Barrel Proof Original Wheat Whiskey Batch A223 (February 2023)
With this release, Heaven Hill does what it always does to its popular whiskey lines: Releasing a barrel proof version of the product. Bernheim Barrel Proof will be released in batches — twice per year instead of three, the way Larceny and Elijah Craig are released — with proof and batch information denoted on the front of each label.
Otherwise, the song remains the same. Take the standard 7 year old Bernheim and just don’t water it down:
Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey is the first wheat whiskey to use winter wheat as its primary grain, creating a soft, sweet flavor. This extension to the Bernheim brand delivers the same familiar smoothness with even more depth of flavor from seven to nine full years of aging. Pulled straight from the barrel and bottled without chill filtration, Bernheim Barrel Proof wheat whiskey in its purest form. Like the Original, Barrel Proof is produced at the namesake Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky and aged in Heaven Hill’s rickhouses. Bernheim Barrel Proof will be a nationally allocated product which will be released in batches, twice a year. Each release will have its own unique batch number and proof which will vary from edition to edition.
Keeping with Heaven Hill’s commitment to tradition and quality, Bernheim Barrel Proof is made with Heaven Hill’s wheat whiskey mashbill which is comprised of 51% wheat, 37% corn, and 12% malted barley. The A223 batch of Barrel Proof is bottled at 118.8 proof or 59.4% by volume. With a distinct nose of oak staves and fresh bread, this wheat whiskey has initial tasting notes spanning from buttery hints of caramel and honey to the spiciness of cloves. The finish is soft, yet complex with lasting notes of honey and caramel.
“The launch of the Barrel Proof expression of Bernheim Wheat Whiskey is a very exciting one for Heaven Hill,” says Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll. “We know this is a product consumers want, and we think this batch has the smoothness they’ll recognize from Bernheim Original, but with an even greater depth of flavor.”
Bottles of this Bernheim Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey will feature the A223 batch number prominently on the front of each bottle next to the Barrel Proof designation. The letter “A” represents the first batch of the year. The first number represents the month of the release with “2” indicating February. Finally, the last two digits indicate the corresponding year with “23” designating 2023.
With that prologue, let’s dive in to the inaugural bottling of Bernheim Barrel Proof.
Spoiler alert: There are few surprises in the mix with this whiskey, and if you’re at all familiar with Bernheim’s standard expression, you’ll find plenty of the same elements swirling around here, too. Sweet and syrupy on the nose, this again drops a vanilla-dusted, Sunday morning pancake breakfast, falling right in your lap — and while they’re certainly powerful, the aromatics are not at all fiery or nostril-burning like you’d expect to find in the typical cask strength whiskey. Brown butter and traces of strawberry become evident with a little time in glass, but the classic softness of wheat whiskey is on full display here.
The palate is even sweeter than I was expecting. Again, a bold maple syrup quality is immediate, redolent with notes of bananas, candied walnuts, fresh figs, and plenty of gingerbread spice as the finish builds. Vanilla and milk chocolate play dueling banjos as the more fruit- and spice-driven notes fade a bit, and the finish hits like a boozy, maple-sweetened milkshake. All throughout the experience, it’s never overtly blazing with alcohol, though it definitely packs a punch. Add water if you’d like, but then you’re pretty much back to the 90 proof version.
Wheat whiskey in general is usually too sweet for my tastes, and that’s definitely the case here, but the added power of a barrel proof release helps to give this expression a bit more nuance and pizzazz while giving the sugar something to bounce off of. Yes, I wrote pizzazz.
A- / $65 / bernheimwheatwhiskey.com
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