Well, this is very interesting. I thought at some point I heard that Henry McKenna bourbon had been wheated. So far, the only source that confirms it is Kroll - a book I have never read (a gap in my knowledge, the only major bourbon study I don't have - actually I never read Crowgey either - I need to get out more).
And, I just checked - Michael Jackson does not state in his 1987 World Guide that McKenna is wheated - he doesn't say either way. So I must have read it somewhere else, perhaps in a source borrowing from Crowgey. Does Sam Cecil state anything on this? I can't find my copy.
I must say I am inclined to believe Kroll, due also to having tasted this product many times in the 1980's. It had a dryish, light palate such as many wheaters have. On the other hand, my memory might be wrong on this. The Kroll account might have assumed wrongly that because McKenna initially used a wheat-heavy whiskey recipe, his bourbon used wheat. But this is not so of course necessarily. At the time, the market offered wheat whiskies and white wheat whiskeys. Some of these were straight whiskeys (like Bernheim Wheat today) and some were probably like vodka, high rectified. A corn-heavy mash, once McKenna switched to corn as the base, would of course be the decisive turn to bourbon, and no ad in the 1900's I have been able to find talks about what the minority grain was although numerous other aspects of (craft-style) bourbon production are referred to. Mike's account, which relies also on an interview with a descendant of those involved in distilling the whiskey in the 1900's, suggests clearly that rye was the minority grain used.
Chuck, if you still have any Fairfield whiskey, can you taste it and opine on the question?
Last edited by gillmang
on Sat Oct 10, 2009 8:12 am, edited 2 times in total.