Frey Ranch 100% Wheat Whiskey Single Barrel Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Frey Ranch 100% Wheat Whiskey Single Barrel Review

As an outside observer of American whiskey hype, I’ve always found it sort of fascinating that there can simultaneously be such ravenous demand for wheated bourbon expressions, but relatively little interest in full-on wheat whiskeys. You’re telling me that a whiskey mash bill with 20-30% wheat is god’s own nectar, but one with 50% or more wheat is suddenly not worth your interest? Isn’t it likely that if you prefer wheated bourbons to rye bourbon recipes, a full wheat whiskey might be something you’d like even more? And yet despite that, even the biggest distilleries in the industry such as Heaven Hill have always seemingly had their wheat whiskey brands (in their case Bernheim) relegated to the shadows. As a result, even some of the biggest bourbon geeks out there still seem fuzzy on their understanding of what wheat whiskey brings to the table.

Nevada’s Frey Ranch has a new offering that may entrance those drinkers, in the form of their 100% Wheat Whiskey Single Barrel. Part of the distillery’s Single Grain Series, which as the name would imply focuses on 100% mash bills of various grains, grown exclusively on the Frey Ranch farm in Fallon, NV, this is a serious heavy hitter for wheat whiskey lovers. Being a single barrel release, this brand involves a lot of variation, but the varying proof points are perhaps the most dramatic aspect–this release has cask-strength bottles ranging from strong (58.4% ABV, 116.8 proof) to very strong (67.2% ABV, 134.4 proof). I received a sample of the latter, which is easily the strongest thing I’ve had from Frey Ranch to date–even their “farm strength” uncut bourbon was only 124.3 proof by comparison. This 100% soft winter wheat whiskey, carrying a 6-7 year age statement, certainly seems to promise that it will be a flavor bomb, and it probably needs to be at the advanced $114 MSRP.

So with that said, let’s get to tasting this new release, which celebrates Frey Ranch’s 10th year of distilling in Northern Nevada.

On the nose, the 100% Wheat Whiskey Single Barrel immediately starts delivering intense notes of butterscotch candy in particular–I don’t know if I’ve ever zeroed in on “butterscotch” so intently in a whiskey before. It’s joined by strawberry jam and caramel chews, with hints of yeasty bread dough. There’s a little licorice, and an increasing impression of cream/butteriness. It’s a somewhat unusual nose, but that sort of make sense given how far afield this is from what you’re typically finding on the shelf. One of the most interesting qualities here is a sweet herbaceousness that almost evokes something like roasted agave pinas.

On the palate, the big butterscotch character is certainly still present, melding with caramel in an initially strong rush of upfront sweetness. That sweetness is matched to a degree by more peppery spice and herbal or grassy tones, with a little bit of bitterness and lingering barrel char on the back end. That roasty herbal sweetness is back as well, again putting me sort of in the mind of roasted agave, but it’s the butterscotch you keep returning to–that, and an unmistakable vanilla buttercream. The modest bitterness keeps things from reading too overtly sugary, while the heat is certainly sturdy but never overwhelming, which is definitely a feat at 134.4 proof.

All in all, this release captures the particular nexus of unusual and intriguing that has typified many of Frey Ranch’s bottles in the last few years. Their dedication to their own particular process, from the growing of their grains to the making of individualistic whiskeys, sets them apart in an admirable way in the modern craft whiskey scene. People curious about the high end of wheat whiskey assertiveness will want to check this out.

Distillery: Frey Ranch Distilling
City: Fallon, NV
Style: Straight wheat whiskey
ABV: 67.2% (134.4 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $114 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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