Bernheim Original: Revisited

I’d like to thank Heaven Hill for providing this review sample to me with no strings attached.

IMAGE: the front label of a bottle of Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey

It has been one thousand, seven hundred and fifteen days since I last did a tasting of Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey. It was purchased right after they added the seven year age statement to the bottle. That age statement addition was the reason that I purchased my first bottle of Bernheim, but sadly that was also the last bottle I purchased of Heaven Hill’s Wheat Whiskey. Not because I had some strong feeling toward it. But precisely because I turned out that I didn’t have a strong feeling toward it. I just sort of forgot it existed.

Now, I can be excused for that, at least a little bit. I do tend to reserve a majority of my whiskey budget for the site and it can be hard to remember to go back to something once I’ve written about it. In this case though, it just didn’t make that strong of an impression on me to warrant a second look.

And so it stood for almost five years. Until one day a couple weeks ago, a package came from Heaven Hill. They tend to send things unannounced so I was interested what new thing it would be this time. Imagine my surprise when I opened the box and found this bottle of Bernheim. At first I thought, “well…cool!” and was happy. Then I thought, “oh, I’ve reviewed that” and I had a bit of a sad. Not because I had free whiskey, mind you, just that I wouldn’t be getting content out of it. Of course, once I looked up how long ago I’d reviewed it, I got happy again because it was a prime candidate for revisiting. Especially once I remembered that I hadn’t even had a sip of Bernheim since that bottle five years ago.

At the time, I’d summed up my feelings like this:

This is pleasant though uninteresting. It can take a little water, but not much. I like it but wouldn’t want it for every pour. I’d love to see that age statement creep up even further.

I said that last bit partly as a bridge to the whiskey I was comparing it with that night. See, I’d decided to pair the Bernheim review with the Parker’s Heritage Wheat Whiskey that had also been released right about that time. And honestly, I think the presence of the same juice, but at an older age and higher proof sort of set Bernheim up for failure. Parker’s Heritage cast a long shadow. So now many years removed from its limited edition brother, I think I am prepared to take another look at it and judge it on its own merits.

Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey

Purchase Info: This review sample was graciously provided to me by Heaven Hill for review purposes. It retails locally for between $24.99 and $34.99 for a 750 mL bottle.

Details: Wheat whiskey. 45% ABV. 7 years old.

Nose: Bubblegum, black pepper, black tea

Mouth: Sweet and nutty with caramel, black pepper and bubble gum.

Finish: medium length with" just enough" burn. Peanut and cinnamon fade to reveal a lingering bubblegum note.

like-vector.png

Thoughts: I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I will often take a glass of bourbon to bed with me to sip on while I read a book or watch a little tv. Sometimes, my wife is nice and will get it for us. When she does, she likes to not tell me what she brought. Sometimes this is a scary thing (especially around Bottom Shelf Bracket time) but most of the time it is fun to see if I can figure out what she decided on. After we got this bottle of Bernheim, it was her go to pour. And I realized that I really enjoyed it. It made a nice “end of the night” drink.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products and bourbon-related craft supplies I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. And hey, if you are an iOS user, look for Bourbon Guy in Apple News. Thanks!

Father's Day Gift Ideas from the Readers of BourbonGuy.com

A couple weeks ago, I gave away a pair of socks to a lucky reader. But, being the sneaky devil that I am, I required them to answer a question for me in order to enter. In this case, I asked them what "gift-worthy" relatively available bourbon they would give to someone for Father's Day.

That’s right, I got the readers to do my work for me. And as I had hoped, I found the information interesting and I think you might too.

10 “Gift-Worthy” Bourbons as Chosen by the Readers

1. Henry McKenna Bottled in Bond 10-year old.

This beloved darling of a whiskey was the most submitted bourbon by the readers. And with good reason. This is an affordable bourbon that comes with a 10 year age statement. That combination is a rarity these days. Of course since this just won multiple awards at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, including “Best in Show Whiskey” I don’t know that I would expect to see this sitting on the shelf anytime soon. But if you do, grab a bottle. It really is quite good. Spicy, rich and complex. And if you see two, maybe grab one for a gift too.

2. Colonel E. H. Taylor Single Barrel Bourbon

One of two suggestions coming from the EH Taylor portfolio, Single Barrel is just what it sounds like. A Single Barrel, Bottled in Bond Bourbon. Clocking in at 100 proof, this one should be high enough proof for the experienced drinker but not proofed so high that it scares away the novice. I haven’t had this one personally but the distillery says this: “The aroma carries lightly toasted oak, with dried figs and butterscotch. One sip brings flavors of sweetness balanced with tobacco and dark spices. The finish is just long enough to prepare the palette for another sip. The bottle itself is a likeness to Colonel Taylor's original design used over a century ago.”

3. Four Roses Single Barrel

This is one of my favorite bourbons and my favorite in the Four Roses line-up. In my mind when I think of “bourbon flavor” I’m thinking of Four Roses Single Barrel. Of course, I am an admitted Four Roses Fanboy so take all of this with a grain of salt. In fact, the last time I wrote about it I had a very short review of it: “This is a fantastic bourbon. If you haven't had it yet, you should. If you buy it and you don't love it, I'll be happy to drink it for you if you send it to me.” And as a gift, not only does it come in a lovely bottle but if your local store has private selections, you can get something unique as well.

4. Blanton’s Single Barrel

This is one of five entries on the list that is made at the Buffalo Trace Distillery. This particular entry will be a bit hard to find most of the time. Though it isn’t impossible depending on where you live. Introduced way back in 1984, Blanton’s was the original Single Barrel and helped kick off the Bourbon Renaissance we are living through today. Internationally, there are multiple labels in the Blanton’s portfolio, including a Barrel Proof version that is to die for. Here in the US, we only get this one. But don’t be too sad, it is a hell of a bourbon and any person would be happy to receive it as a gift…if you don’t decide to keep it for yourself.

5. Booker’s Bourbon

This is one that you will not want to give to everyone on your list. Regularly clocking in at well over 120° proof, this is not for the bourbon novice. If your recipient is an experienced bourbon lover though, you cannot go wrong with Bookers. Sweet, thick, chewy and delicious, I am never disappointed with a bottle of Booker’s. Makes me wish I had a bottle right now.

6. Colonel E. H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon

The second of two suggestions coming from the EH Taylor portfolio, Small Batch is also a bonded bourbon. I’m a bit ashamed to admit this, but I haven’t had this one either. Not sure how the entire E.H. Taylor line escaped my attention, but I should probably remedy that soon. In any case the distillery says this: “Tastes of caramel corn sweetness, mingled with butterscotch and licorice. The aftertaste is a soft mouth-feel that turns into subtle spices of pepper and tobacco.”

7. Eagle Rare Bourbon

I’ve had this bourbon on my shelf numerous times over the course of my bourbon journey and I’m going to tell you something. I’ve never noticed that the top of the E in the logo was an eagle head until right now. As a graphic designer for almost two decades, that bothers me more than it should. But maybe I can be excused, I mean most of the time I’m looking at this bottle, I’m focused on what is inside it, not on the label. This ten year old bourbon from the Buffalo Trace company clocks in at a respectable 90° proof and is probably my favorite bourbon from the distillery that is available here in the States.

8. Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon

This is the bourbon that I give as a gift most often. It is mellow and smooth, comes in a pretty bottle and tastes delicious. It is a great gift for the bourbon novice and is tasty enough for the bourbon expert. In fact, for a long while it was my go to from the Four Roses lineup before finally being overtaken by Single Barrel in the last few years.

9. Four Roses Small Batch Select Bourbon

Small Batch Select is the most recent release from Four Roses Bourbon, and the one in my glass as I wrote this. I got mine on my last trip to Kentucky since unfortunately it isn’t available nationwide yet. Non-chill filtered and clocking in at a hefty 104° proof, this is a bourbon to give to the experienced bourbon drinker. Being a mix of OBSV, OESV, OBSK, OESK, OBSF, and OESF recipes, this bourbon caters to the floral side of the Four Roses flavor profile without skimping on the spiciness. If you live in an area where this is for sale, it’s a no brainer as a gift for a whiskey lover that lives in the rest of the country.

10. Stagg Jr. Bourbon

This final entry on the list is another barrel proof, unfiltered bourbon. This time from Buffalo Trace. Named similarly to George T. Stagg of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Junior is a bit younger than the 15+ years of its older brother. Stagg Jr. doesn’t carry an age statement but is assumed to be in the 6-10 year old range. And as one of the readers who suggested it said: “Separates the men from the boys.” I’m assuming he means the women from the girls as well. But the sentiment is correct, this is a burner.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products and bourbon-related craft supplies I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. And hey, if you are an iOS user, look for Bourbon Guy in Apple News. Thanks!

Bottom-Shelf Brackets 2019: Round 2: Wild Turkey 101 vs. Bulleit and Evan Williams Bottled in Bond vs. Old Forester Signature

In light of recent allegations made by the daughter of Tom Bulleit of his homophobia and mental and physical abuse toward her, I have made the decision that BourbonGuy.com can no longer endorse products bearing the Bulleit name.

This is it. Tonight we find out who will the final two spots of our semifinals round. Round 2 of the 2019 BourbonGuy.com Bottom Shelf Brackets continues with Division 2 Number 1 seed Wild Turkey 101 versus the advancing Number 5 seed Bulleit Bourbon. 

We’ve already met Bulleit, but to recap, it it is a sourced bourbon from Diageo. It used to be made of Four Roses juice but it is getting less and less likely that there is any left in the bottle since it has been five or six years since they were cut off. The other competitor is Wild Turkey 101. It is a product of Campari’s Wild Turkey distillery. And it is one of my favorite “everyday” bourbons. Let’s see who comes out on top.

These were tasted blind in the following order. Tasting notes are from before the reveal.

Wild Turkey 101

Purchase Info: $19.99 for a 1 liter bottle, Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 50.5% ABV.

Nose: Caramel, vanilla custard, cinnamon and a hint of mint.

Mouth: Sweet and spicy with mint and cinnamon.

Finish: Medium length, warm and sweet. Lingering cinnamon and vanilla custard.

Bulleit Bourbon

Purchase Info: $18.99 for a 750 mL bottle, Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 45% ABV.

Nose: Spearmint, toffee, cherry, cinnamon red hots.

Mouth: Spicy and sweet (though less sweet than number one) baking spice, toffee, and cherry.

Finish: Medium length. Lingering toffee and baking spice.

Pre-reveal Thoughts: Two very good whiskeys in this one but whiskey one wins this round. The spice is spicier. The sweet is sweeter It has more well-defined flavors. And it has a warmer and longer finish. Whiskey one is tastes like they took whiskey two and cranked up the volume.

Post Reveal Thoughts: Not shocked that Wild Turkey 101 won this round. The proof difference could easily explain the difference in “volume.”

Round 2 of the 2019 BourbonGuy.com Bottom Shelf Brackets concludes with Division 2 Number 2 seed Evan Williams Bottled in Bond versus the advancing Number 6 seed Old Forester Signature 100 proof.  

Old Forester Signature 100 proof is the plucky underdog here. Or is it? Though it was once a staple on my bourbon shelf, I’ve been passing on Evan Williams Bottled in Bond more and more lately. It has just started tasting too young to me. More grain-forward than I’d like. Especially when I can get the same size bottle of Wild Turkey 101 for just a dollar or two more.

These were tasted blind in the following order. Tasting notes are from before the reveal.

Old Forester Signature 100 Proof

Purchase Info: $24.99 for a 750 mL bottle, Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 50% ABV.

Nose: Honey, caramel, wintergreen, almond.

Mouth: Caramel, black tea, vanilla, clove and cinnamon.

Finish: Medium length and warm. Lingering caramel, apple, cinnamon and oak.

Evan Williams Bottled in Bond

Purchase Info: $17.99 for a 750 mL bottle, Viking Liquor Barrel, Prior Lake, MN

Details: 50% ABV.

Nose: Brown sugar, mint and vanilla.

Mouth: Caramel, mint and dried grain.

Finish: Medium length with lingering caramel, dried grains and cinnamon.

Pre-reveal Thoughts: Whiskey one wins this one hands-down. In my mind there is no contest. Whiskey two is way too grain forward by comparison.

Post Reveal Thoughts: No surprises here. Old Forester is a nice complex bourbon. It’s everything that I look for in a decently priced bourbon. By way of comparison, Evan Williams Bottled in Bond just isn’t as good as it used to be. I’ve noticed that about a lot of the Heaven Hill Bonded bourbons lately. Good, but not as good as they used to be. (Possibly because Heaven hill seems more interested in putting out new $100+ “prestige” bourbons like the new Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond than they are the lower-priced offerings that helped build their reputation.) Anyway EWBiB will work great in cocktails, but that is what this contest is about. Old Forester Signature advances.

And so the Championship Rounds are set! Old Grand-Dad Bonded versus Larceny and Wild Turkey 101 versus Old Forester Signature.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. And if you are an iOS user, look for Bourbon Guy in Apple News. Thanks!