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Wheatley Vodka

Review: Wheatley Vodka     (82.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on March 01, 2021

Harlan Wheatley and his Micro-Still

Wheatley Vodka is produced at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, America’s oldest continually-operated distillery.  Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley is responsible for the brand which is distilled in small-batches using a one of a kind micro-still.  This is a wheat based vodka which is distilled a total of 10 times before being triple filtered and then bottled at 41 % alcohol by volume.

According to Harlan:

” We’re in the spirits business. We have the people, we have the equipment and we have the history of distilling. We’ve put everything we know about distilling bourbon into this vodka.”

This is meant to be a craft spirit suitable to drink on its own or to mix in your favourite vodka cocktails.

When tasting Wheatley Vodka for the first time the spirit was chilled such that I would be tasting the spirit in roughly the same manner as my friends and I would normally enjoy the spirit. I served the vodka in a large shot glass inspecting the nose, then taking a cautious sip, and then finally downed a full swallow.  After this, I sampled the spirit with a variety of foods determining whether the Wheatley Vodka enhanced or detracted from the flavour of each pairing. The tasting was concluded with a cocktail as my believe is that Vodka is primarily a cocktail spirit. I repeated the entire sequence once again (on a separate day) This time with the vodka served at room temperature.

This review relates the information gathered.

The First Impression  8/10

The Wheatley Vodka bottle presentation is shown to the left. We have a medium tall, somewhat stubby cylindrical bottle with a metallic screw cap closure.

The label is designed to emphasize the craft nature of the spirit. The side label on my bottle indicates that it is ten time distilled upon still numbers 1104 and 1297, and bottled in building number 26. I admit that reference to building number 26 caused me to think that perhaps a distillery with 26 buildings is probably not really a craft distillery, at least in the terms with which I categorize distillers in my mind. An although the bottle makes the claim the vodka has been distilled 10 times, I need to point out that distillation on a small micro still does have nearly the impact on the spirit’s rectification, and distillation on a large column still or even on large pot still. The claim of 10 times distilled leaves me unimpressed.

The First Sip 16/20

When I brought my full shot glass of vodka to my nose I noticed bits Lemon zest and grains spice in the breezes with perhaps a touch of cream of wheat porridge implied. Despite the spiciness I did not notice any undo effects of alcohol astringency. The spirit seems relatively clean, albeit somewhat spicy.

My first cautious sip brought a taste of lemon zest forward, with bits of heated grain spice and hints banana and wheat porridge. Even at the well chilled temperature, the spirit seems to carry more flavour than I would like to see in a Vodka.

At room temperature the spirit broke down to some extent. The lemon-like zest and banana flavours were more obvious, and there was a bit of punkiness which reminded me of resin. On the positive side that light wheat porridge flavour seemed quite nice. To be fair most Vodkas break down at room temperature. As you see from my score, I have not been especially harsh, as I notice very little alcohol astringency even at room temperature.

Taking a shot:  16.5/20

When I took a full swallow of the chilled spirit it was smooth, although there was a build up of grain and alcohol spice after that swallow which heated the mouth and throat. I could taste no off metallic flavours; however, the flavour of lemon zest is stronger than I would like.

When I tried the spirit at room temperature the spirit was more punky which I believe is a result of the small still distillation; however, I still do not notice any harshness. I was okay with the chilled shot especially as although the spiciness of the vodka comes through firmly, the alcohol bite does not. As for that punky flavour which develops as the vodka warms, I have tasted much worse in other vodkas, and the fact that no metallic flavours or harshness develops makes me quite forgiving of this particular feature.

Out For Dinner 16/20

When the spirit is well chilled the Wheatley Vodka acts as a nice palate cleanser. The impressions of lemon zest and spice serve to open the palate making food quite enjoyable. I sampled both salty and spicy foods (pepperoni pizza and pepper pot soup), as well as various breads and cheeses. All seemed to taste much nicer after a small sip of chilled vodka.

The experience was not nearly as enjoyable with the Vodka at room temperature, as the punkier flavour profile of the spirit seems to interfere rather than enhance the food pairings. When serving the Wheatley Vodka with food my advice is to keep it well chilled.

Cocktail hour 25.5/30

Wheatly Vodka works really well in cocktails. I mixed a Vodka Gimlet which was nice and tasty. I should point out that the wheat base makes this vodka just a little sweeter than a rye based vodka which translates into the cocktail. I also made a Vesper (see recipe here) which was very nice, and I suspect this vodka would also make a swell Vodka Martini as long as the serving was chilled properly such that the light punky flavour which creeps in as it warms would be kept at bay.

My cocktail of choice for  Wheatley Vodka is a serving I call Maggie May (I’ve been listening to Rod Stewart lately). I could have chose that Vodka Gimlet, but I have recommended that so many times that I felt a change would be nice. (Maggie Mae is a really nice serving!)

Maggie May

3/4 oz Wheatley Vodka
3/4 oz Reposado Tequila
3/4 oz Triple Sec
3/4 oz fresh Lime Juice
1 tsp Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
Ice
Lime Slice for garnish

Chill a cocktail glass
Place the Vodka, Tequila, Lime Juice, Triple Sec, and Sugar Syrup into a metal shaker
Shake until the outside of the shaker frosts
Strain into the chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a slice of Lime
Enjoy!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

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Final Score 82.5/100

Wheatley Vodka is fine when chilled, but even better for fancy cocktails.

If you are interested in comparing more scores, here is a link to my other published Vodka Reviews.

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You may (loosely) interpret my score as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing Vodka.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again for cocktails only.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this Vodka in shots, although cocktails are preferable.
85-89    Excellent!  Shots or cocktails!
90-94    You may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 80    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)

 

 

 
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