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What is a Wheated Bourbon? History & Guide (2024 Best Edition)

What is a Wheated Bourbon

Last Updated on March 27, 2024 by Lydia Martin

Most bourbons are made with a mixture of corn, rye, and barley malt, but when rye is replaced with wheat as the secondary grain, it creates a different flavor profile. Wheated bourbons are loved by many because it is gentle, easygoing, and will not blow your ears off.

But what is a wheated bourbon, and what makes it special?  

All About Wheated Bourbon 

Wheated Bourbon

Wheated bourbon is a bourbon whiskey type that uses wheat in place of rye. The corn content must still be at least 51%, but the wheat adds a softer, sweeter flavor to the finished product. While rye bourbons tend to be spicy with a strong kick, wheated bourbons are smoother and often described as “gentle.” 

If It’s Bourbon, Why Does It Contain Wheat Grains? 

Corn must comprise at least 51% of the grain bill to be considered bourbon [1]. The other common grains used are rye and malted barley, and sometimes, wheat is used as a replacement for rye.

Wheated bourbons replace the rye in the mash bill, and now, you might be wondering why anyone would want to replace the rye. After all, rye is what gives bourbon its signature spicy flavor. 

When wheat is added to the grain mix, it results in a smoother, more complex flavor profile. That’s why wheated bourbons are often referred to as “mellow” or “soft” bourbons. But is Buffalo Trace wheated bourbon?

Fun Facts

Fun Facts

How It’s Made

Wheated bourbon is an American whiskey made using a mash bill that includes wheat and the more traditional corn.

It is typically made using a fermentation process that includes yeast and is followed by distillation and maturation in new charred oak barrels for certain years. 

Mash Bill

Wheat Bourbon Mash Bill

A typical wheated bourbon has a mash bill of corn, wheat, and malted barley. The corn content is usually around 51% or higher, with wheat and malted barley making up the remaining percentage.

A wheated bourbon is usually higher than the 51% bourbon requirement, and its wheat content ranges from 15 to 25%. 

Alcohol Content

The ABV percentage of wheated bourbon ranges from 40% to 50%. So, if a bottle of wheated bourbon has an ABV of 40%, it would be 80 proof. Wheated bourbons are typically in the range of 80 to 100 proof. 

What Does It Taste Like? 

1972 Sweet Wheat

Wheated bourbon tends to taste sweeter than other bourbons, in contrast with rye which can be spicy. It also has a more mellow flavor and a smooth, soft, round mouthfeel.

Wheated bourbon is the perfect choice for sipping neat or on the rocks for many bourbon enthusiasts. 

What Makes Wheat Special?

When it comes to wheated bourbon, wheat is what makes it special. Most bourbons comprise a mash bill consisting mostly of corn, with rye or barley as the secondary grain.

But wheated bourbons swap out the rye for additional wheat, giving the bourbon a smoother, sweeter flavor profile. 

Wheat is tightly packed with proteins, but it gives a lot of elasticity to the mash bill. It helps the mash retain its shape during fermentation and produces more delicious flavors from the wheat.


3 Best Wheated Bourbons 

3 Best Wheated Bourbons 

1. Larceny Bourbon

Larceny bourbon is a 68% corn, 20% wheat, and 12% malted barley blend. It’s bottled at 92 proof, and you can score a bottle for roughly $27. Larceny bourbon is made by Heaven Hill and has a sweet, wheaty flavor with notes of vanilla and caramel. 

2. Maker’s Mark

Maker’s Mark

Maker’s Mark is a wheated bourbon whiskey produced in Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky. It is distilled from a fermented mash of 70% corn, 16% wheat, and 14% malted barley. It is also a budget-friendly bourbon, and you can score a bottle of Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight bourbon whiskey at around $27.

3. Pappy Van Winkle

The Pappy Van Winkle is one of the world’s most sought-after and delicious wheated bourbon whiskeys. In 1893, Pappy merged the A. Ph. Stitzel and Weller distilleries, creating what would become one of the most iconic bourbons of all time – Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve. 

The luxurious whiskey costs roughly $3000, and it is aged for almost 20 years in American white oak barrels, resulting in a smooth, sophisticated flavor that is unlike any other bourbon on the market. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are wheated bourbons sweeter?

Yes, wheated bourbons are typically sweeter than bourbons made with rye or other grains. The wheat imparts a softer, more rounded flavor that many bourbon drinkers prefer. Some people prefer wheated bourbons because they are more sweet, mellow, and smooth, but others find it too sweet for a bourbon. 

How can you tell if bourbon is wheated?

The only way to tell if the bourbon is wheated is by checking its mash bill to see if it contains wheat. Some bourbons contain rye as their secondary grain, so if they contain wheat content, they are wheated bourbons.

Are wheated bourbons smoother?

Wheated bourbons are often considered smoother due to the substitution of rye, a spicier grain, with wheat in the mash bill; the use of wheat contributes to a softer and rounder flavor profile, emphasizing sweetness and creating a smoother drinking experience.

Why is wheated bourbon so popular?

Wheated bourbon’s popularity can be attributed to its approachable and mellow taste; the substitution of wheat for rye results in a sweeter and less spicy flavor, appealing to a broad range of palates and attracting those who prefer a smoother and more caramel-forward bourbon.

What is an example of a wheated bourbon?

An example of a well-known wheated bourbon is Maker’s Mark; recognized for its distinct red wax seal and iconic bottle shape, Maker’s Mark uses a mash bill that includes corn, barley, and a notable amount of red winter wheat, contributing to its smooth and sweet flavor profile.

Is Jim Beam a wheated bourbon?

No, Jim Beam is not a wheated bourbon; it is a straight bourbon whiskey that follows a traditional mash bill, typically containing corn, rye, and malted barley. The inclusion of rye in Jim Beam’s mash bill gives it a spicier character compared to wheated bourbons.

Is Elijah Craig wheated?

No, Elijah Craig is not a wheated bourbon; it is a straight bourbon produced by Heaven Hill Distillery. Elijah Craig follows a more traditional mash bill that includes corn, rye, and malted barley, contributing to a flavor profile with a balance of sweetness, spice, and complexity.

How do you drink wheated bourbon?

Wheated bourbon can be enjoyed in various ways, including neat, on the rocks, or in classic bourbon cocktails like the Old Fashioned or Manhattan; its smoother and sweeter profile makes it pleasant to sip on its own, while the versatility allows for creative mixology in cocktails.

What is the flavor of wheated bourbon?

Wheated bourbon is known for its smooth, mellow, and sweet flavor profile; the use of wheat in the mash bill imparts a softer character, often characterized by notes of caramel, vanilla, and a lack of the spiciness associated with bourbons that use rye in their mash bills.

Is Angel’s Envy wheated or rye?

Angel’s Envy is not a wheated bourbon; it is a unique bourbon finished in port wine barrels, adding distinctive fruity and wine-like notes to its flavor profile; its mash bill includes corn, rye, and malted barley.

Is Buffalo Trace a wheated bourbon?

No, Buffalo Trace is not a wheated bourbon; it is a straight bourbon whiskey produced at Buffalo Trace Distillery with a mash bill that includes corn, rye, and barley. Buffalo Trace is known for its well-balanced flavor profile, offering a mix of sweetness, spice, and complexity.

Is rye or wheat bourbon better?

The preference between rye and wheated bourbon is subjective and depends on individual taste; rye bourbon tends to be spicier with a bolder flavor profile, while wheated bourbon is smoother and sweeter. Whether one is better than the other is a matter of personal preference, with some favoring the robustness of rye, and others enjoying the softer, more delicate nature of wheated bourbon.

It ultimately comes down to the drinker’s palate and the flavor profile they find most appealing.

What are the two types of bourbon?

Bourbon primarily comes in two types: traditional bourbon and wheated bourbon. Traditional bourbon is made with a mash bill that includes corn, rye, and malted barley, while wheated bourbon replaces the rye with wheat in the mash bill. These variations result in distinct flavor profiles and characteristics.

What is the difference between wheated bourbon and wheat whiskey?

The main difference lies in their production processes. Wheated bourbon is a specific type of bourbon with a mash bill that includes corn, wheat, and malted barley. In contrast, wheat whiskey is its own category, made primarily from a mash bill of at least 51% wheat, with the remaining percentage typically being barley or other grains.

While both share the use of wheat, their compositions, aging processes, and legal definitions differentiate them, ultimately affecting their flavors.

What is the flavor of wheated bourbon?

Wheated bourbon is renowned for its distinct flavor profile, characterized by a smooth and mellow taste with a noticeable absence of the spiciness often associated with rye-based bourbons.

The use of wheat in the mash bill imparts a sweetness that brings forward notes of caramel, vanilla, and sometimes a hint of fruitiness. This sweetness is often described as more pronounced and approachable compared to traditional bourbon, making wheated bourbon an excellent choice for those who prefer a gentler and more laid-back sipping experience.

The velvety texture enhances the overall drinking pleasure, and the absence of a strong rye influence allows the subtler flavors to shine, providing a well-balanced and harmonious bourbon experience.

Overall, the flavor profile of wheated bourbon appeals to a wide range of bourbon enthusiasts, from those new to the spirit to seasoned connoisseurs seeking a different dimension of taste in their whiskey.

So, What Is A Wheated Bourbon?

A wheated bourbon is a bourbon whiskey that uses wheat as the secondary grain instead of rye. It gives the bourbon a sweeter, more mellow flavor profile.

Wheated bourbons are often considered some of the best-tasting bourbons on the market, and they can command high prices. However, some affordable wheated bourbons are available, like Maker’s Mark and Larceny. 

If you’re looking for a smooth, delicious bourbon, a wheated bourbon is a great option.


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