What is a Wheated Bourbon? History & Guide (2023 Updated)

Last Updated on August 22, 2023 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. 


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.

In Summary

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.



Lydia Martin

Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.

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