Whiskey Name: Bernheim Original 7 years aged
Distillery: Heaven Hill
Whiskey Type: Wheat whiskey
Release Date: General release
Age: 7 years young
Mashbill: 51% wheat, 39% corn, 10% malted barley
Introduction/Background: Bernheim is a whiskey which picks up an awful lot of awards. It tends to be top of its class in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, for example, and its product page on most retail websites is bedecked with more Golds than Michael Phelps.
However, it isn’t playing in what you’d call the most crowded of fields. Bernheim is a wheat whiskey, which means that for most of its natural life its competition has been zilch. Frankly even I’d fancy my chances if I were the solo entrant in something. Though I do seem to dimly recall almost coming second out of two in a primary school sportsday race once.
Wheat is such a trendy grain at the moment though, what with everyone trying to be the next Pappy, that inevitably potential usurpers to Bernheim’s lonely throne are beginning to emerge. My thoughts on young wheat have been fairly well documented on this site and elsewhere, so I shan’t bang on too much about it now.
On the whole though, most wheat whiskies I’ve tasted have been fairly bland, threadbare stuff. The exception that proves the rule thus far being the bombastically brilliant Reservoir that we tasted at the Lexington back in August.
So, with Reservoir as my barometer for wheat whiskey quality, how does the longer-in-the-tooth Bernheim stack up?
Appearance: Deep copper
Nose: Honey, caramel, vanilla, and wheat bread. A very light touch of something in between citrus and tropical fruit. Pineapple, probably. That’s more or less it. It’s not a terribly big nose, and it’s pretty straightforward. But neither is it immature or spirity, which are often the trends where wheat (and wheated bourbon) below a certain age is concerned. So there’s that.
Mouth: Almost no change whatsoever on the palate. Honey and sugar on brown toast. A smatter of peanut. Could almost be a bourbon, albeit a fairly simple one. Just enough body not to feel dilute.
Finish: Rather short. The bready aspects last longer than the honeys.
Value for Money: You can buy Blanton’s Gold for the same price. So...
Summary: It’s not unpleasant. It’s quite nice, in fact. But it’s just a bit bland. A bit “so what?” Doesn’t really make a huge statement; certainly not to anywhere near the degree that the Reservoir did, which blew away pretty much everyone in the room.
You expect a little more when you shell out £60. Priced in line with the Rittenhouse 100 proof or the Elijah Craig Small Batch (which in America, it almost is) I’d recommend giving a bottle a whirl. But for what you have to pay this side of the pond, it’s probably missable. There are too many far more interesting whiskies you’d have to overlook.
Overall Verdict: Shrug. S’alright I guess.
Words by WhiskyPilgrim