Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Out of Heaven Hill we have here the first national barrel proof expression for the Bernheim Original line. This Bernheim Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Whiskey is composed from seven to nine years of aged whiskey. It is bottled without chill filtration – now what does that mean to you? Some may not give it much thought or know what chill filtration means. Some consumers who are knowledgeable of the process prefer their whiskey without chill filtration because it leaves the whiskey in its exact state from barrel to bottle.
On Heaven Hill’s website, they have a Chill Filtration 101 breakdown that nicely paints a picture of both sides of the coin. All whiskey is a combination of water and ethanol, but did you know, it also contains natural fatty acids, esters, and proteins? Ever notice that sometimes your whiskey can be cloudy or have opaque bits floating around? It is due to the whiskey’s temperature cooling down and the natural fatty acids, esters, and proteins exposing themselves.
Overall, chill filtration is a process to filter out these bits and ensure quality of visually crispy clean whiskey. While most of the products that come out of Heaven Hill are chill filtered, they are producing some non-chill filtered whiskeys, like today’s review and more, as demand rises.
Now wheat whiskey is usually not my favorite, but anything barrel proof is. I find this to be the absolute happy medium and now that I have a better understanding of non-chill filtered whiskey, this is as close as I can get to tasting straight from the barrel – which is my happy place. Not all wheat is the same, and for the Bernheim line they are using winter wheat as its primary grain which helps it give a soft, sweet flavor.
After some research on the grain and with the help of the Kentucky Small Grain Grower’s Association, the wheat class most widely grown in Kentucky is soft red winter wheat. Suited for cookies, crackers, pretzels, pastries and flat bread – and well, some damn good whiskey!
Straight from Heaven Hill’s press release, the bottles of Bernheim Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey release feature the A223 batch number prominently on the front of each bottle next to the Barrel Proof designation. The letter “A” represents the first batch of the year. The first number represents the month of the release with 2 indicating February. Finally, the last two digits indicate the corresponding year with 23 representing 2023. As the first number gave up, this release hit stores in February and this will be a nationally allocated product which will be released in batches twice a year.
Tasting Notes: Bernheim Barrel Proof A223
Vital Stats: 118.8 proof; age is a blend of 7-9 years; mash bill: 51% Winter Wheat + 37% Corn + 12% Malted Barley; price is $64.99.
Appearance: It is floor length, silky terracotta evening dress that hides the legs. A tinge of blood orange too for a sultry touch.
Nose: Lemon meringue pie, drizzled in maple syrup for extra sweetness. Alongside the solid dessert, a liquid dessert to accompany it is next. A mug of hot cocoa with milk chocolate, frothed to perfection almond milk, and finished off with cracked black pepper. Sitting awhile longer with it, the sweetness turns to heavily savory. It’s BBQ slab of ribs smothered in Japanese BBQ sauce and a whisper of fig balsamic vinegar.
Palate: Having tried this in the morning then again, outside during the hottest part of a beautiful sunny day – this is an easy sipper. For 118.8 proof, I’m just as surprised. The wheat is very much apparent, that can be easily pinpointed. But typical, semi dull wheat characteristics are overpowered with lightly toasted French bread smothered in salty Irish butter and accompanied by pan fried brussel sprouts topped with maple bacon bits. Now the mouthfeel is where this baby shines. The juice makes a strong appearance and makes its presence very clear. But as it joins the party down south, the mouth and throat are coated in velvet.
My only wish is that the sensation would last longer. It has me reaching for another sip, then another, then also has me questioning myself – Do I actually not like wheat whiskey?