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Bernheim Original (Kentucky Straight) Wheat Whiskey

Review: Bernheim Original (Kentucky Straight) Wheat Whiskey   83.5/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published on October 17, 2013

According to the company website, Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey is produced at the Bernheim Distillery in LouisvilleKentucky, and then aged in Rickhouse Y at Heaven Hill’s, Nelson County aging facilities. The primary grain in the mash bill is winter wheat, and as I have indicated in my previous review for Highwood’s Centennial 10 Year Old Canadian Whisky, the use of wheat (which is more easily digestible than other grains) gives the resulting whisky a softer smoother flavour profile than corn, barley or rye. The Bernheim Original contains no age statement. However, as a ‘straight whiskey’ it must be aged a minimum of two years in new, charred oak barrels, and distilled at less than 160 proof. (The website implies an aging regimen of about 5 to 6 years and specifies that the whiskey contains no coloring, flavoring or blending agents.)

In the Bottle 4.5/5

The Bernheim Original arrives in the very nice flask style bottle shown to the left. The bottle has a masculine look. The metallic copper coloured label is original; and of course I like the wax sealed cork closure. The only flaw is the beige coloured cardboard box which houses the whiskey. Because the top of this box slides off easily as you grab it, it can come apart unexpectedly if a friend grabs the box from the top to carry it across the room. Such an occurrence could result in the bottle falling to the floor and perhaps breaking the glass and spilling the precious contents.

Rethinking that box design would be a good thing.

In the Glass  8/10

When I pour a small sample of Bernheim original into my Glencairn glass I see it has a nice copper/amber glow reflecting its time spent in freshly charred oak barrels. The aroma is a nice mixture of spicy oak sap and toffee with some nuances of maple rising into the breezes as well. Although the whisky is predominantly a wheat mash there appears to be enough corn in the blend to give the aroma a very bourbon-like nose with fresh corn scents and honeycomb building as the glass sits. There is also a few hints of astringency in the air giving the breezes a bit of an alcoholic bite. Some vanillans, and a bit of fresh tobacco round out the aroma.

In the Glass 50/60

The initial delivery reflects that same hint of astringency I noticed in the air above the glass. The bottling proof of the whiskey is 45 % alcohol by volume and that accounts for some of this astringency, although perhaps a larger part is a reflection of the relative youth of the Bernheim original. I decide that adding an ice-cube is probably a better way to approach the whisky, and I am instantly rewarded by a smoother flavour and creamier mouth feel. I can taste a nice butterscotch sweetness as well as fresh oak spice and vanilla. The corn notes seem to come through much more clearly than when I sip it neat. Carmel corn, honeycomb, green tobacco and a meandering maple flavour all wander in and out the flavour steam.

In the Throat 12.5/15

The medium length finish is both sweet and dry if that makes any sense. Sweet from lingering flavours of butterscotch and honeycomb, and dry and spicy from the flavour of oak sap. There is a noticeable burn in the throat when I sip the spirit neat; but this burn disappears and is replaced by a menthol-like coolness when I add an ice-cube to the whiskey.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

I enjoyed sampling the Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey. The flavour is very bourbon-like although it is perhaps a touch more mellow. I found that when I sampled the spirit with ice it was a comfortable sipper, and I also tried a few classic cocktails that worked out quite well (see recipe below).

You may read some of my other Whiskey Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

Whiskey Sour (on Ice)Whiskey Sour (on Ice)

1 1/2 oz Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
3/8 oz Sugar Syrup
Large ice cubes
Slice of Lemon and/or Maraschino Cherry

Add the first three ingredients to a rocks glass over the ice cubes
Stir gently and serve
Garnish with a Lemon Slice and/or a Maraschino Cherry

Please Enjoy Responsibly!


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 rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact 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 more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)


4 Responses to “Bernheim Original (Kentucky Straight) Wheat Whiskey”

  1. Wow… this is the first review you and I disagree on. I tried this at in New York last week. My notes: “Sweet corn on the nose with a strange astringent tinge of acetone. Palate: A block of fresh cedar, very drying in nature and “hot”. Finish: Practically non-existing except for the high burn effect. This whisky barely has any flavor from start to finish. If it wasn’t for the little bit of corn you can smell it would be rubbing alcohol”?

    I thought my review was a bit harsh, so had it again at a second show a few days later. Nope… I wrote: “Probably one of the worst wheat whiskies I’ve had thus far. I can’t help but wonder if once it’s aged if it will mellow and develop a better profile. Very disappointed”.

    I am now curious what you think of Masterson’s Wheat Whisky and/or Dry fly Washington Wheat?

    Goes to show how subjective whisky can be! hehe


    • Hi Johanne

      If this is only the first time we disagree, that’s pretty good, although I notice your tasting notes are remarkable similar to mine.

      My “fresh corn scents” sound like your “Sweet corn on the nose”; Your “astringent tone of acetone” parallels my “hints of astringency in the air giving the breezes a bit of an alcoholic bite” and your “block of fresh cedar” sound like my “Spicy wood sap”. And finally your comment that the whisky was “very drying in nature and “hot”” , is reflected in my comments that the whiskey is “dry and spicy from the flavour of oak sap”. In fact it is apparent to me from your provided notes that we are talking about the same whisky. Note that I “decide that adding an ice-cube is probably a better way to approach the whisky”. So I am by no means enthralled by the spirit in its neat form. However, that ice-cube really did help me enjoy the whisky, and when I mixed a whisky sour (and an old fashioned) I really enjoyed myself (although if you note my recipe, I even served the whisky sour on ice).

      I think our only real difference is in how we interpret the score. My score of 83.5 basically reflects a whiskey which I can sip; but which is much more enjoyable as a mixer. I reserve the scores below 80 for those whiskies I must mix, and those below 70 for those which do not taste nice even in a cocktail.

      (And thank you very much for the comment!)

      • PS:

        I haven’t tried the Masterton’s Wheat, nor the Dry Fly Washington, so I cannot comment on those. My favourite wheat whisky is the Highwood Centenial which I believe is a bit of a diamond in the rough, overlooked by many because of its great price point, but suave and smooth with subtle beguiling nuances of flavour.

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