|The Bar at Wheated|
"Lesson learned," says owner David Sheridan, "don't name your bar after a very specific spirit that's about to become nearly impossible to supply!" He's talking of course about the explosion in popularity of wheated bourbon that's been taking place over the last few years inspired by Pappy Van Winkle.
The solution? Buy your own barrel of wheated bourbon from a local craft distiller and make it your house brand. David purchased his cask of McKenzie Single Barrel Bourbon from Finger Lakes Distilling in upstate New York.
|David Sheridan - Proprietor|
You'd be happy too... It's a 4.5 year old high-corn wheated mashbill bourbon that only produced 129 bottles at cask strength.
The McKenzie is really nice, very fresh with a familiar rich wheat nose (not unlike a young Van Winkle) that's popping with mint and florals, vanilla, honey, and a nice drop of saddle leather. It definitely tastes older than it is and sits in a really smooth place for almost 110 proof.
The other nice part about this bottle is that it's sitting on a table full of brother and sister wheaters. It turns out Wheated is a good place to go if you like drinking wheated bourbon.
We taste through this lovely mix of craft wheaters and some all time favorites.
Dry Fly was a big surprise. Looking at the bottle you'd think "ok we're in for another super young marketing experiment gone awry." But not at all! Dry Fly is a serious farm to bottle operation with a real eye for quality and craftsmanship. The product was deceptively rich and lovely for a three year bourbon. They use a higher percentage of malt (20%) than you'd usually find in a bourbon. It was very drinkable, and captured some of that spice and molasses that you look for in an older wheated bourbon. A very nice surprise. (Maybe a bottle redesign would help this brand??)
After our last experience with the Jim Beam Signature Spanish Brandy Whiskey, we almost passed on this one without tasting it. That would have been a big mistake! We were pleasantly surprised. The "Red Wheat" Beam bottle was lovely with a combination of smoothness with rich notes, sweets, and earthiness. SOOO much better than the brandy, they're not even in the same league.
This Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project #168 was one of the best in this lineup that we've tasted. Another cracking wheater, it had a very dry and sophisticated palate going on with subtle spice, grass/hay, and vanilla.
For reference sake, David threw in a couple of old standards: Weller 12 Year and Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year. These were superior bourbons to the craft brands, yet we both marveled at how well both the McKenzie and the Dry Fly held up. Considering folks are paying $300 a bottle for the Van Winkle, and the Weller is getting extremely hard to come by, it's great to see new wheaters coming out. If these two continue to put aside some stock for aging, we bet that in a few years they'll be right on par, if not better, than the older mass produced stuff. Still, both Weller 12 and ORVW are delicious whiskies and a righteous addition to any wheater party.
It's time for dinner. If we keep drinking at this pace on empty stomachs we're going to end up singing Commodores' numbers with our pants down (don't ask). Luckily David's crew makes the meanest meatball calzone in recent memory, served with homemade Sriracha sauce. Pair that with a smoked meat and hot pepper pizza and we're in heaven.
"Won't all that spicy food blow your palate?" you may be asking? Well luckily the next whiskey on our list is a real barn-burner (no pun intended).
We've been resisting the Garrison Brothers Cowboy Bourbon because it's $200/bottle. Generally speaking, we need another $200 craft bourbon like we need a hole in the head. But lo and behold it's pretty fuggin awesome. The most comparable thing would be the Balcones Texas Single Barrel that we got to taste recently (aka the bottle that does not exist). It's like a huge George T Stagg of craft corn/wheat whiskey. Just exploding with richness and flavor. Are we going to run out and spend $200 on it? It's still a big ask, but we were surprised by how good it was for sure.
Finally, since we'd never tasted it, David brought out one more treat to finish the night. The Kavalan Soloist. Now here's a whiskey that's gotten so much fanfare we figured it had to be something special. And maybe it was just because we'd been drinking so much nice mellow wheated whiskey all night, but this stuff was so cloyingly sweet it was almost hard to get down. Sort of like a Speyside malt whisky with so much sherry influence it totally overwhelms the whisky. It must be a first fill sherry cask (really it tastes like they actually added sherry to the malt). This one was a big miss, but still a cool way to end the night. David carries an impressive menu of single malts in addition to the American whiskey list. We may have to go back and sample through more of those...
Anyway Wheated is a winner. A very warm environment, good family style place for an early dinner, and one of the best whiskey lists in NYC. Cheers to David for showing us a great time and if you're in the area, tell 'em the beast sent you!