When Bernheim Wheat whiskey first came out, I thought it was a mite too soft and lacked flavor. As time passed I grew to appreciate it more and always have a bottle on hand for an occasional sip. I now consider it an excellent whiskey.
Still, I think it is a very good whiskey to vat with other whiskies and I have two on hand at the moment. Two of the vattings utilize William LaRue Weller wheat bourbons. One uses 40% 121 proof WLW and the other uses the 20% 114 proof WLW. One of the vattings uses 20% (90 proof) Bernheim and the other uses 60% Bernheim. One uses 40% Russell's Reserve (90 proof) to add some rye spice and the other uses 20% Van Winkle Rye (95.6 proof) for a similiar purpose.
The first one, using 40% WLW, 40% RR, and 20% Bernheim is richer with barrel flavors and has a nice dollop of the WT rye....... cooled by the Bernheim. The proof of this vatting is about 102. This is a very, very, good whiskey, with a lot of balance between the barrel, the spice, and the wheat sweetness. You would have a difficult time buying a better bourbon than this one, though it leans to the spicy side, with the RR, and its WT high rye recipe, being the controlling flavor.
There may be some on BE who consider this type of post, because it involves whiskies beyond the ability of many BE contributors to find, or to afford, to be either unimportant or not worth much. They are welcomed to their opinions about the quality of bourbons, and have every right to deal with less expensive bourbons as they choose. If they find me to be a bourbon 'snob', they are mistaken. I see my task as a Bourbon Enthusiast as one of pursuing the highest quality and finest taste in bourbon, and, while cost has a place in that equation, it is not the primary factor in my opinion.
Individual taste, as we are so often reminded by folks on BE, is extraordinarily important, but it is not 'fixed'! And, to thereby imply that everyone's taste is equal is absurd. Take it as you will, but if taste is 100% subjective, why is there a site called Bourbon Enthusiast, since it is all a matter of individual taste? What constitues 'highest quality' is always subject to debate, but those who seek to level the playing field by asserting that since all taste is 100% subjective are missing a larger view of things (in my opinion, which is, of course, subjective).
Mike will have NONE of this argument that because taste is 100% subjective there are no standards upon which we can judge some bourbons as better than others........... that is non-sensical and offensive to those who explore bourbon as if it were a lover.
The second one uses 20% WLW (at 114 proof), 20% VW 13 YO (yeah right!) Family Reserve Rye, and 60% Bernheim. This vatting is about 95 proof. Now, in my opinion, the VW rye is a first rate whiskey (and is probably much older than 13 years, from what I have often read), so to use this almost impossible to find whiskey in a vatting is (may I brag here?) almost foolhardy. Yet, I find the vatting as good as, and, in fact, slightly superior to the VW rye. Why? Because the VW rye is still the controlling whiskey (yes, even at only 20%). The VW rye is an example of masterful control of the taste of the whiskey (from the barrel), well beyond the richness the barrel contributes.
My opinion has always been (and has often been stated on BE) that the barrel at later stages of aging, and in some rather rare circumstances, contributes a subtlety through the tannins that makes for exceptional whiskey. It has also long been my opinion that Julian Van Winkle is the best judge of this kind of whiskey, since his whiskies best fit this bill.
I will not be so bold as to suggest that bourbon aficionados will find my vatting the equal of VW rye, but, I think it is better. Why? Because it has the added rich barrel flavors of the WLW and the softness of the Bernheim. It is, says me, a more complete whiskey. Yet, the anchor of this vatting is still the 13 YO (yeah, right?) Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye. Its subtlety carries the whiskey right through to an excellent finish!
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas