Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey A223 Review [In Depth]

Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey A223

Alex author
Founder, writer
Bernheim Barrel Strength Wheat Whiskey header

Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey Details

Distillery: Heaven Hill

Type & Region: Wheat Whiskey, Kentucky, USA

Alcohol: 59.4%

Composition:51% wheat, 37% corn, 12% barley

Aged: Blend of 7-9 years old

Color: 1.4/2.0 on the color scale (tawny)

Price: $60-70

From the company website:

This extension to the Bernheim brand means you can now enjoy a premium Wheat Whiskey at full barrel proof. Like the original, Bernheim Barrel Proof is produced at the Bernheim Distillery and is the first wheat whiskey to use winter wheat as its primary grain, giving it a soft, sweet flavor that’s extra smooth. Released twice a year, each offering is aged for seven to nine years in our open-air rickhouses. This is a chance to experience our unique wheat mashbill in its pure form: non-chill filtered and bottled at barrel proof.

Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey overview

It took a while, but Heaven Hill finally released Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey to the general public with batch A223, a blend of 7-9 year old barrels. Bernheim is Heaven Hill’s main brand for their wheat whiskey, with the rare release under the Parker’s Heritage name. Bernheim 7 Year Wheat Whiskey been out for years, so I don’t know why it took them so long to release a barrel proof version.
I think around 2019 (I’m probably wrong but not too far off), Heaven Hill introduced Bernheim Barrel Proof as part of their bottle-your-own experience at the distillery. That sparked some hope it might eventually be released outside the distillery for the first time ever.
Fun fact, Bernheim refers to Isaac Wolfe Bernheim (aka IW Harper). The Bernheim distillery was acquired by Heaven Hill in 1999 (after the massive fire in 1996). There’s a lot of history behind the Bernheim name, and a lot of it existed before Heaven Hill was ever involved with Bernheim. That’s my main bourbon trivia for this review.
Now to what wheat whiskey is. Thankfully it’s not too complicated, or any more complicated than bourbon or rye whiskey. It follows the same rules as bourbon, but the mash has at least 51% wheat instead of 51% corn. That includes the same rules with maximum allowed distillation proof, proof at barreling, types of barrels used, and more.
What’s less simple is why it’s so overlooked. I think Woodford Reserve is the only other major Kentucky distillery to produce it, but I could be wrong about that. MGP is another major distillery to produce it, and a lot of that goes to Old Elk, some of which sports 10 year age statements! There are many other small to medium-size distilleries that create wheat whiskey, but it’s curious that the other “big boys” don’t.
I don’t know, just a thought I always wonder about. As much as people chase wheated bourbons such as Weller and Old Fitzgerald, they don’t chase wheat whiskey so much. I mean…people love wheat right?
Let’s find what the inaugural national release has to offer in this Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey review.
Bernheim Barrel Strength Wheat Whiskey back
q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B003VAWA68&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=thewhiskeyshe 20

As an FYI, I bought and use these Glencairn glasses for everything (they’re the best): Glencairn Crystal Whiskey Glass Set of 6, Set of 4Set of 2, or just one. Full transparency, this is an affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey smell

The scents start with a lot of roasted caramel, malt chocolate, toasted flaky pastry, vanilla frosting, ripe red apple, roasted oak, heavy cinnamon, ginger, and baked bread. Bernheim Barrel Proof has a bit of a chocolate-stuffed apple turnover pastry coated in caramel vibe, which is nice to get. There’s some kick, but that’s honestly normal for a wheat whiskey that’s nearly 60% ABV.
For the most part, this feels like a wheated bourbon. If anything, it’s similar to older Maker’s Mark Cask Strengths from 2014-2015, and actually less similar to Larceny Barrel Proof. For better or worse, the similarity to Maker’s Mark also means that there aren’t any meaningful surprises. At least as first, there are no particularly puzzling moments, it’s all fairly straightforward and expected.
After swirling and 12 minutes of rest, I smell dark and dense caramel, vanilla, malt chocolate, ripe apple, roasted oak, cinnamon, dried orange peel, clove, and lighter candied ginger and peanut butter. As dark and roasty as everyone is, this still has a faint underlying brightness that adds a nice layer.
Yeah, Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey reminds me of older Maker’s Mark Cask Strength. It has a similar dark sweetness, spiciness, and bready quality with no wheat-y gumminess, but Bernheim is a bit hotter and not quite as expressive and rich. That said, those Maker’s Mark Cask Strengths from 2014-2015 were really really good, so the bar is really high.
Scent-wise, Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey is a dense whiskey with good body and heft but not much range or complexity.

Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey taste and aftertaste

The flavors start with caramel, vanilla, a lot of ripe red apple, roasted oak, cinnamon, clove, orange peel, flaky pastry, cola, baked bread, and a little cocoa powder, candied ginger, and cantaloupe (yes seriously). It’s also less hot in the flavors than the scents.
Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey has a tasty list of flavors, but nothing really sticks out or pops yet. It still makes up for that small shortcoming with great viscosity, flavor, and balance, although there isn’t much range. Still, it’s one of the better wheaters I’ve had, quite similar to Old Elk Single Barrel Wheated Bourbon.
After “chewing” I taste dense caramel, vanilla, ripe red apple and candied red apple, roasted oak, orange, cinnamon, clove, candied ginger, pastry, and a little chocolate malt. Ah, there’s some pop in the candied apple and it makes it feel like an apple turnover coated in caramel, which is delicious by the way.
It has good viscosity and mouthfeel with increasing oiliness so I can feel every bit of the 59.4% ABV and non chill filtration (probably), but with decently well-controlled heat.
The finish at first leaves caramel coated apple, roasted oak, cinnamon, vanilla, clove, and candied ginger. After “chewing”, it leaves caramel, red apple, roasted oak, drying oils, a lot of cinnamon, flaky pastry, and some vanilla frosting in the back.
Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey continues to be a caramel-forward bourb…I mean wheat whiskey. I don’t know if I can pinpoint any particular favor that clearly separates it from wheated bourbon. A certain pastry-like quality might, but I don’t even think that I could reliably catch that in a blind comparison.
So flavor-wise, this is a densely flavorful experience that will satiate and please any wheated bourbon lover, but it seems to be missing some variety and depth.

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B016YPDI3A&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=thewhiskeyshe 20&language=en USir?t=thewhiskeyshe 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B016YPDI3A

I’ve unfortunately lost some Glencairn’s while in transit, and that made me very sad. So, I wised up and bought this Glencairn Travel Case that comes also comes with 2 glasses so I don’t need to worry so much about them breaking. I think it’s great, and I think you’ll love it too.

Seriously, if you already have glasses, protect them.

Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey Rating

Top Shelf
I enjoy the standard Bernheim Wheat Whiskey (it’s one of the best wheaters under $30), so it makes sense that I like the amped-up barrel proof version even more. I think it would behoove Heaven Hill to expand these releases so more people can try them, because I think there is an appetite to buy high quality wheaters…even if they’re not wheated bourbon.
What’s so interesting to me is that it drinks so much like a wheated bourbon, which I think will surprise many who drink this. I could even be fooled into thinking that it was made by Maker’s Mark, a new and better version of Maker’s Mark Cask Strength.
It’s not like rye, where rye whiskey and high rye bourbon often feel so different to me. Wheat is a less…aggressive and intense grain so adding more of it doesn’t completely take over the corn. The good is that people will feel somewhat familiar with Bernheim, but the bad is that it won’t feel as novel and unique.
Speaking of the good and the bad, Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey has a lot of good about it, and a few shortcomings / limitations. It is truly the amped up version of the standard Bernheim, but with not much new stuff added. There are no new surprises or unique layers, just even more of a good thing.
I can’t tell you what Heaven Hill did to create a somewhat limited experience (maybe batch 1 jitters) that could use more fruitiness, but I hope that they continue to learn and improve with subsequent batches. I hear that Larceny Barrel Proof batches got better over time, so hopefully the same will happen here. Who knows what they’ll do, because I’m sure many have opinions about which Elijah Crag Barrel Proof batches across the years are better / worse / preferred profile. There necessarily isn’t an upward trend.
But for the first batch, I think that Heaven Hill did a strong job and are showing-off what wheated bourbon’s cousin can offer to bourbon drinkers. So if you like Bernheim Wheat Whiskey and/or enjoy wheated bourbon, then Bernheim Barrel Proof Wheat Whiskey is an easy yes.
It seems like batch A223, the inaugural batch, was on the smaller side so it sold out quickly. I don’t think Heaven Hill has the stock to make it as large as Elijah Craig Barrel Proof or Larceny Barrel Proof, but I hope that they find a way to expose more people to what wheat whiskey can be. It’s not wheated bourbon, but I think it’s pretty close and just as good.
Alex author
Meet the Author: Alex

I have far too much fun writing about whiskey and singlehandedly running The Whiskey Shelf to bring you independent, honest, and useful reviews, comparisons, and more. I’m proudly Asian American and can speak Cantonese, Mandarin, and some Japanese.

There are no sponsors, no media companies, and no nonsense. Support The Whiskey Shelf by Buying Me A Shot.
q? encoding=UTF8&MarketPlace=US&ASIN=B07GL6Z1X3&ServiceVersion=20070822&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&Format= SL250 &tag=thewhiskeyshe 20

Shattered glass really sucks, so if you’re on the move, this Glencairn-like stainless steel snifter glass should survive your travels. Full transparency, this is an Amazon affiliate link, so I may earn a commission if you buy this or something else from Amazon.

BrüMate NOS’R, Double-Wall Stainless Steel Whiskey Nosing Glass – 7oz (Matte Black)