Holladay Soft Red Wheat Bottled-in-Bond and Rickhouse Proof Bourbon Reviews & Tasting Notes


How many distilleries are you aware of that can trace their history back to Lewis and Clark? They didn’t establish the distillery, but the duo discovered the limestone spring in Weston, Missouri in 1804. Two brothers, Ben Holladay, and Major David Holladay, decided that the spring would become the site for a distillery.


Ben was the founder of Wells Fargo Express and was known as the Stagecoach King, transporting folks from Missouri to the West Coast and points in between. Ben had his hands in several companies, and by 1864, he was the largest individual employer in the nation!  


The distillery was founded in 1856 as Blue Springs Distillery. It changed hands several times - first to George Shawhan, whose family named it the Shawhan Distillery in 1900. It changed in 1936 and was called the Old Weston Distillery before becoming McCormick Distilling Company in 1942. In 1993, the business was purchased by Ed Pechar and Mike Griesser.


McCormick Distilling is the oldest distillery west of the Mississippi River that still operates at its original location. During Prohibition, the distillery was also one of the few allowed to remain open to bottle medicinal whiskey. Now, the Holladay Distillery operates as part of McCormick Distilling.


About a year ago, I had the opportunity to review its flagship Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon. Rather than rehash it, here’s my rating:


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I may say something that will make you angry, and for that, I apologize. As we pass the halfway point of 2022, it is time to start considering the cream of the crop. Ben Holladay Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon is one of the best – if not the best – Bourbon I’ve tasted year-to-date. There’s nothing not to love here. Even the price is attractive. So, why is that upsetting? Well, it means you’ll have to travel to or have a friend in Kansas or Missouri to snag a Bottle. Travel. Make new friends. Trust me. Cheers!”


Recently, the distillery released its Soft Red Wheat Bourbon. It comes in two varieties: Bottled-in-Bond and Rickhouse Proof. And, graciously, they sent me samples of each for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews.


“Holladay Soft Red Wheat Bourbon is classified as a Real Missouri Bourbon under a 2019 law requiring that any whiskey labeled as Missouri bourbon must not only meet the federal standards for bourbon, but also be mashed, fermented, distilled, aged, and bottled in the state; aged in oak barrels manufactured in the state; and—beginning January 1, 2020—made with corn exclusively grown in the state.” – Holladay Distillery


Before I get to the #DrinkCurious part, I’ll simply state that I sipped these neat from Glencairn glasses.


Soft Red Wheat - Bottled-in-Bond


This Bourbon was distilled in the Spring of 2017 and aged six years in new, charred oak barrels at Rickhouse C until it was dumped and bottled in March 2023. The 56 barrels used in the batch came from the following floors:

Because it is Bonded, we know it is packaged at 50% ABV (100°). A 750ml has a suggested price of $59.99. The mashbill is 73% corn, 15% wheat, and 12% malted barley, the same as the flagship Bourbon, just with the rye swapped out for wheat.


Appearance: The liquid was a brilliant orange amber that formed a thicker rim. A curtain of tears crashed back into the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose: Plum and cherries were the first things I smelled. Beyond that, I encountered flan and toasted oak. Drawing the air into my mouth offered up fresh cornbread.


Palate: The texture was thick and creamy. At the front, I tasted cherries, plums, and blueberries. Midway through, I found caramel, vanilla, and lime zest (yes, lime). The back was spicy with oak tannins, clove, and a kiss of freshly-cracked black pepper.


Finish: Notes of cherry, plum, crème brulee, clove, and a very late addition of cocoa powder created a long, building finish. There was also no denying this Bourbon’s proof.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The Bottled-in-Bond Soft Red Wheat is a fruity, spicy Bourbon that grabs you by both shoulders and stares deep into your eyes. The “heat” is warming, yet not enough to interfere with your sipping experience. The good news is that Holladay is now distributed beyond Kansas and Missouri because you’ll want to grab a Bottle when you see it.




Soft Red Wheat – Rickhouse Proof

Rickhouse Proof refers to the Bourbon’s barrel proof when dumped. Since it has the exact barrel location percentages as the Bonded version, it is safe to assume that the same barrels were used to create both; one diluted to 100°, the other uncut. Packaging is at 59.5% ABV (119°). A 750ml has a suggested price of $74.99.


Appearance: The deep amber color looked almost like rust. A thick rim of sticky droplets grabbed the wall of my glass.


Nose: A bold aroma of corn wafted from the glass. I also smelled cherries, and the flan was unmistakable. Toasted oak and cinnamon rounded things out. When I pulled the air through my lips, it reminded me of Werther’s Original.


Palate: The thin, oily liquid found every crevice in my mouth. Cinnamon spice, caramel, and cherries hit the front of my palate. The middle consisted of dark chocolate, shredded tobacco, and orange peel. I tasted clove, dry oak, and old leather on the back.


Finish: This Bourbon has pucker power. You’re left smacking your lips because it sucked every iota of moisture from your mouth.  Dark chocolate, clove, dry oak, old leather, cinnamon, and cherries remained for an incredibly spicy, lingering finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: When whiskey is as dry as the Rickhouse Proof, I am forced to concentrate on what’s happening in my mouth. I was impressed with the spice-bomb quality it possessed. Its oiliness was something many aficionados are drawn toward. Overall, Rickhouse Proof was well-balanced. Is it worth a dollar a proof point more than the Bonded? Yes. As you can easily guess, this one earned my Bottle rating.


Additional Thoughts: I'd assume you were pranking me if you sat me down with a blindfold and told me these two were the same Bourbon with a 19-point proof span. Sure, there were some shared notes, but everything from how they acted in the glass to what they tasted like was worlds apart. Which did I prefer? That’s a good question worthy of consideration, and my gut reaction is that I have no idea. If pressed to choose one over the other, I’d go with the Bottled-in-Bond because that lime peel flavor threw me for a loop. Cheers!



My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.