Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


What’s a wheat whiskey?  If your answer is Old Weller, Old Fitzgerald, Pappy Van Whatever, or a variety of other Bourbons, you’d be incorrect. True, those are wheated Bourbons (or wheaters), but they’re not wheat whiskeys.  You see, just as Bourbon must be at least 51% corn, wheat whiskey must be at least 51% wheat. Aside from that, most of the Bourbon rules apply to wheat whiskey.


Distilled wheat has little-to-no flavor. It is a rounding quality to it – it highlights the flavors of other things in the white dog or wood and softens the mouthfeel. This is one reason why wheaters have such an extensive fan base.


Wheat whiskeys from 100% wheat mash are often quite spicy because they take on the flavor of the wood without the white dog grains to get in the way. I’m not the biggest fan of 100% wheat whiskeys, despite enjoying rye-heavy whiskeys. How would you take away from that spicy quality, then? The answer is simple, you add other grains to the mash, making sure that at least 51% wheat. And that’s precisely what Heaven Hill does with Bernheim Original.


“This Heaven Hill Distillery original is named for the famed Bernheim Distillery here in Louisville. 7-Year-Old Wheat Whiskey, Bernheim Original is the first new style of American Whiskey to be introduced since Prohibition. Aged for 7 years in our traditional open rickhouses, Bernheim’s mellow taste is refreshingly smooth when served straight or in cocktails.” – Heaven Hill Brands


Bernheim Original is a barely legal wheat whiskey. Barely legal refers to something hitting the bare minimum in the mashbill. In this case, that’s wheat, and it has only 51%. The remainder is 39% corn and 10% malted barley. That gives the potential for other flavors aside from wood to come through on the palate and finish. It is also a small-batch whiskey, which is a nifty marketing term that means nothing. That’s because small batch has no legal definition. As such, that could be one barrel, ten barrels, 100 barrels, or 1000 barrels. You’ll notice that nobody ever puts large batch on their labels.


In the case of Bernheim Original, small-batch means 100 barrels or fewer. It is aged at Heaven Hill’s Rickhouse Y in Bardstown and is bottled at 90°, and you can expect to pay around $30.00 for a 750ml bottle. I purchased mine a few years ago.


How’s Bernheim Original taste? I’ll have to #DrinkCurious to tell you.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Bernheim Original is a definitive orange amber. It presented a skinny rim that, for whatever reason, yielded painfully slow tears.


Nose:  The first aroma I picked out was sweetgrass. As I worked to get past it, butterscotch, honey, and vanilla came forward. When I took the air into my mouth, butterscotch stuck around.


Palate:  Bernheim Original featured a light, silky mouthfeel that led to coconut, toasted oak, and orange zest on the front of the palate. The middle was caramel and milk chocolate, along with sweet tobacco. On the back, I tasted more sweet tobacco, cinnamon, and nutmeg.


Finish:  This whiskey’s finish was short, and what remained behind were honey, vanilla, nutmeg, and charred oak.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I stated earlier, I’ve had my bottle of Bernheim for a few years, and as you can tell from the photo, it doesn’t hit my rotation often. Why? Because, for the most part, it is unremarkable. There’s nothing terrible about it. It is just that nothing stands out, either. And because of that, it is a good opportunity to introduce someone to the world of whiskey. It is soft, sweet, and unassuming. This is one you’ll want to try before you buy, and that’s why it takes a Bar rating. 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.