Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Willett Wheater Bourbons: The April 6, 1993 Bernheim Run
Earlier this week, I wrote about the great ryes distilled at the Bernheim Distillery in the 1980s that were released by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD). There is another set of great Bernheims out there from a different era. In 1991, the old Bernheim Distillery was torn down by United Distillers and replaced by a new, high-tech distillery. At around the same time, United Distillers closed one of their other distilleries, Stitzel-Weller. They needed somewhere to make the wheated bourbon for the Stitzel-Weller brands like Old Fitzgerald and W.L. Weller so they started making it at the shiny, new Bernheim Distillery.
This era's Bernheim wheat whiskey is great stuff. Today, as Stitzel-Weller stocks run dry, many of the Van Winkle whiskeys have some of this Bernheim bourbon in the mix. But some of the best Bernheim wheated bourbon I've had is from a run of Willett whiskeys distilled just over twenty years ago, on April 6, 1993. Of course, since these are independently bottled and the producer is not disclosed, I can't guarantee they're Bernheim, but there aren't that many candidates for a wheated bourbon from that era.
These are huge, oaky bourbons with abvs in the high 60s. If you don't like wood, stay away, but if oak doesn't bother you, these are fantastic, like cask strength Van Winkles.
The 4/6/93 Bernheims are bottled under the Willett label (the date is on the back label). Shopper's Vineyard had a 17 year old version a few years ago, and Pacific Edge has distributed a number of them in California, including 16 and 17 year olds. It's possible that some are still on the shelves. If you find one, and you like that oaky wheater profile, definitely pick it up.