When you hear the term wheat whiskey, several people would assume it means a wheater or a wheated Bourbon. However, wheat whiskey is a category all by itself. And, what we know about wheat is that it is a tasteless grain when it is distilled: It adds a level of "smoothness" and highlights the other flavors in the mash.
There are not too many out there that do it right. Perhaps the most well-known wheat whiskey is from Heaven Hill, and it is called Bernheim, named after the distillery's founder. For the record, when someone is new to whiskey and claims they don't like it, I've been known to grab a bottle of Bernheim because it goes down so easily.
But, what happens when the mash is 100% wheat? Does that mean that the whiskey itself has no taste? Not at all!
Today I'm pouring Dry Fly's Straight Washington Wheat Whiskey. This isn't my first rodeo with Dry Fly. Recently I had the opportunity to review their Straight Triticale Whiskey and I loved it. The Straight Washington Wheat Whiskey is distilled from a mash of 100% soft, white wheat that is grown by Wisota Farms, located 30 miles from the distillery. It is then aged for three years in new, #3 charred oak 53-gallon barrels from Independent Stave Company before being bottled at 90°. Retail is $39.95 for a 750ml bottle.
I'd like to thank Dry Fly Distilling for providing me a sample of their whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, let's get to it.
Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, this wheat whiskey appears as a clear, light gold. While it created a thin rim, the legs were fat and heavy. They fell to the pool of liquid sunshine, but at the same time, left behind big droplets that hung to the wall.
Nose: Aromas of orchard fruits, particularly peach and apricot, greeted my nostrils. They were followed by oak and, finally, caramel. When I inhaled through my lips, it was a blend of dried hay and peach. The nose was not very complex, but in my experience, that's typical of a wheat whiskey.
Palate: The mouthfeel was very light and airy but also delivered a spicy punch. On the front, it was dry oak and cinnamon spice. At mid-palate, there was a suggestion of peach and definitive nutmeg. Then, on the back, it was citric acid and nuts. I could not nail down what type of nut (or nuts) were present.
Finish: Medium-to-short in length, it started off with very spicy white pepper. That subdued to black pepper, and when that vanished, it became sweet.
On a bit of a segway, I did pour some Bernheim to do a quick comparison. The Bernheim is four years older but also bottled at 90° (and, again, is not 100% wheat). The two are absolutely different in pretty much every way. Dry Fly's version has more on the nose and palate, and Heaven Hill's has no spice whatsoever. Heaven Hill has a much creamier mouthfeel and more vanillas.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Because there are a limited number of easy-to-obtain 100% wheat whiskeys, my experience is admittedly sparse. I found this Straight Washington Wheat Whiskey to be interesting and easy to drink. The spice, especially on the finish, was a bit of a surprise. When I consider the price, it is very fair, especially out of a craft distillery. I happily offer my coveted Bottle rating, and on a side note, I'm so far very impressed with Dry Fly. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy it
- Bar = Try it
- Bust = Leave it