Classification: Wheat Whiskey
Distillery: Woodford Reserve Distillery / Brown-Forman Distillery
Release Date: July 2019/Ongoing
Mashbill: 52% Wheat, 20% Malted Barley, 20% Corn, 8% Rye
Color: Golden Bronze
Woodford Reserve Wheat Whiskey is the latest addition to the Woodford Reserve family. This four grain whiskey is considered a wheat whiskey because its mashbill contains just over 50% wheat. According to Woodford Master Distiller Chris Morris, “After Prohibition, the federal government permitted four styles of American straight whiskey, each with a different majority grain – bourbon, rye, wheat and malt. Woodford Reserve now has all four whiskeys as part of its permanent family of brands – Woodford Bourbon, Woodford Rye, Woodford Malt and now Woodford Wheat.” The whiskey being reviewed is from Label Batch 0038, Bottle #0572.
The nose is soft and fruity. Baked peach pie, cinnamon, hay, and light oak all mingle together. Digging deeper produces hints of vanilla along with apple juice and canned pears. Its lightness is evidence of its proof, however that doesn’t necessarily mean bad in this case. The scents are light yet still provide a nice introduction to this whiskey.
Flavors of oak, wheat grain, and a hint of vanilla are immediate and dominate. This whiskey has a really dry mouthfeel that is best described as the complete opposite of viscous. Rolling this whiskey around brings about a more prominent note of wet oak. Compared to the good start the nose presents, the palate is weak and doesn’t deliver like you’d hope it would.
Much like the rest of the sip, the finish is on the lighter side. White pepper, oak, and hints of dried apple and peaches lead the charge. While light, the finish is also lingering with notes of dried peaches intermingled with vanilla. It’s not an awful way to end the sip, but far from anything to write home about either.
Woodford Reserve Wheat Whiskey enters a category that isn’t very crowded by American whiskey producers, and one that usually doesn’t attract a lot of new arrivals either. American wheat whiskeys aren’t too common, even at the craft distillery level. When focusing on the large Kentucky distillery level, only Heaven Hill produces a wheat whiskey, Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey.
Woodford Reserve Wheat and Bernheim Original are actually very similar. Both come in the 90 proof range, and both are barely legal wheat whiskeys. At 52% and 51% wheat respectively, Bernheim only has a three grain mashbill while Woodford one-ups it with a four grain mashbill. However Bernheim carries a seven year age statement while Woodford does not have an age statement, so it could be as young as four years old.
If you normally like wheated bourbons, Woodford Reserve Wheat delivers a profile that is clearly different from a standard bourbon wheated mashbill. That said, different doesn’t equate to better in this case. It’s not the most standout wheat whiskey on the market, and is more akin to Woodford Rye in the sense of it not succeeding at showcasing the unique attributes of the primary grain. Much like that release, I wish they would either increase the proof or the amount of the primary grain to really make more of a noticeable impact. That said you have to give Woodford credit for trying to tackle this niche category of whiskey.
Coming in at only $35, Woodford Reserve Wheat is priced at only a few dollars more than Bernheim, yet still close enough that it’s in direct competition. It may not deliver a standout flavor profile, however it’s not trying to gouge consumers either. It’s hard to ignore that unless you're a diehard Woodford supporter, otherwise I think more people will be likely to go for an age stated whiskey for a few dollars less. Ideally I would prefer to see this for about $5 less, but in today’s whiskey environment it provides the opportunity to try a name brand wheat whiskey, which many will not have had exposure to before.
Woodford Reserve Wheat Whiskey is a play-it-safe wheat whiskey that delivers a lackluster and unsatisfying sip.
Woodford Reserve Wheat Whiskey feels like it has potential to be so much more than what it delivers. The nose, while light, starts off nicely and is full of scents that you hope will be present in the rest of the sip. Unfortunately, the palate and the finish drop the ball. The flavors come across as more muted and uninteresting, and really leave you longing for more. Would this have been better with a higher percentage of wheat in the mashbill? I don’t know, but I’d love to find out.
That’s mainly the issue I have with Woodford’s non-bourbon standard releases. While a barely legal malt percentage worked well for Woodford Reserve Malt, that same barely legal strategy doesn’t pay off for Woodford Reserve Rye or Woodford Reserve Wheat. For those who are interested in trying a wheat whiskey, don't expect a whiskey that tastes as unique as you might like it to be.