At Laws Whiskey House, the grains that make up our mash bill are central to our story. If you’ve been following us for a while, you know that we focus on the Four American Mother Grains; corn, barley, rye, and wheat. Wheat, while not usually the hero of American whiskey, is a grain that deserves your attention. Not only is wheat the most widely consumed grain in the world, it’s also a relatively common ingredient in many American whiskeys and plays an important role in adding flavor and character. Despite its prominence, it’s rare for a whiskey to be made exclusively from wheat. With our latest Centennial Wheat Straight Whiskey release, we fully explore this grain’s wonderful properties with a 100% heirloom wheat mash bill that creates a robust and full-flavored whiskey.
What is Wheat Whiskey?
Our whiskeys typically achieve one or both of the highest standards in American whiskey: straight and Bottled in Bond (link to BiB Blog Post). In most cases, “Straight” means that the whiskey has been stored in charred new oak containers for 2 years or more and is made from no less than 51% of any one type of grain. Like straight bourbon or straight rye whiskeys which have to be at least 51% corn or 51% rye respectively, wheat whiskey must be no less than 51% wheat.
With this release of Centennial Wheat, we go one step further than the straight criteria to meet and exceed the requirements of Bottled in Bond. These standards state that the whiskey must be at least 4 years old, be aged in a federally bonded warehouse, made in one distilling season by one distillery, and be bottled at exactly 100 proof (50% ABV)
Colorado Wheat: A Range of Flavors and Varieties
Did you know that Colorado is a notable wheat producer? Colorado produces significant quantities of wheat and consistently ranks in the top 10 states in order of volume production. Colorado even has distinctive wheat growing regions, spanning from the eastern plains to the western mountains growing in all areas of the state including 40 of Colorado’s 64 counties.
Hard winter red and hard winter white wheat makes up more than 95% of the state’s production. This is the type of wheat best used for bread and other types of food production because of the high gluten content that holds bread together and gives it texture.
Protein, however, can be a double-edged sword when making whiskey. Protein is where much of a grain’s flavor originates, but a high amount of protein in the wheat grain can lead to overt and harsh grassy notes, which can be undesirable. For this reason and others, we use a soft spring wheat for its typically lower protein content.
Centennial Wheat: A Perfect Balance
Centennial Wheat is a spring white wheat named after Colorado, the Centennial State. What’s the difference between winter and spring wheat? Winter wheat is planted in the fall and is harvested during the summer while spring wheat is planted in the spring and is harvested in the fall. Spring wheat has lower protein and gluten content, which we prefer for distillation and for flavor.
Jason Cody, CEO and President of Colorado Malting Company and the Cody Family Farm, supplies this grain to Laws Whiskey House. He describes Centennial Wheat as, “a perfect middle ground. It has enough protein to offer robust flavor, but also has a lot of starch which helps with fermentation and adds sweetness.”
“Hard winter wheat has a harsher flavor, almost like rye. Soft spring wheat is sweeter, which is really evident when you grind the kernels. It smells like sweet milk when ground. This sweet flavor and mellow grassy notes make Centennial Wheat a special grain. It’s very well suited for whiskey because of its balance between flavor and sweetness.”
The San Luis Valley: Ideal Growing Conditions
In addition to the type of wheat grown, Colorado’s geography and topography also plays a role in developing distinct flavors. In the San Luis Valley where Centennial Wheat is grown, the grains are subjected to unique environmental conditions. To start, the valley is situated at nearly 7,500 feet of elevation. What’s more, summer in the Valley brings warm days but cool nights which is different than many other growing areas of the United States where summers are usually hot during both the day and night. Lastly, the San Luis Valley is located in what was a prehistoric lake bed, which created high salinity in the soil and is typical throughout the area. Together, the elevation, the temperature swings, and the soil conditions create just enough stress to impart rich flavor and character. You can really taste this influence, or terroir, in a single grain whiskey like our Centennial Wheat.
About Batch 4 of Laws Centennial Straight Wheat Whiskey
We have been making wheat whiskeys since early 2013. In our experience, age matters for wheat-heavy whiskeys. Even “wheaters” or bourbons with a high proportion of wheat in the mash bill take longer to develop than whiskeys with high rye mash bills. This is one of the reasons we decided to make this release in the Bottled in Bond format and to age the whiskey 5 years. Centennial Wheat, while softer and nuanced in nature than its hard winter wheat cousins, is still a robust and bold grain. We find that the additional time in barrel allows for the grain’s signature complexity to develop and mellow into something quite pleasant. The sweetness of the grain evolves into a bouquet of fruit and fruit-like aromas, including apple orchards, orange blossoms, and wild strawberry. It also has a bright and earthy minerality originating from the soil of the San Luis Valley, true Colorado high country terroir.
- Batch code: 4
- Class & Type: Straight Wheat Whisky
- Bottled in Bond: Yes
- Proof: 100
- Mash bill: 100% Centennial Wheat, 50% raw and 50% malted
- Fill date: 11/4/2016 for the youngest barrel in the batch
- Harvest date: 3/14/2022
- Total maturation time: 5 years and 5 months on average
- Batch size: 22 barrels
- Total bottles yielded: 4,983
- Price: $79.99
- Availability: May 19th from our Tasting Room and in retailers throughout Colorado. June availability in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Washington DC
- Release Party: Join us on June 5th to celebrate this release and to officially kick off the summer season, more details here
Centennial Wheat is a wonderful summer whiskey. It’s bold, bright, and flavorful expression of the grain its championing. The fruit notes mesh quickly with the generous barrel attributes of vanilla, caramel, a complex mix of baking spices, bergamot and black tea. We like it best chilled over ice which elicits nostalgic flashbacks of enjoying an orange creamsicle with friends. This is the Laws Village’s favorite summer sipper.
At Laws Whiskey House, we believe that the soul of whiskey is comprised of the people who grow the grain, the people who make it, and the people who drink it. And good whiskey, like a good story, is meant to be shared. We hope you enjoy this special whiskey as much as we do and thanks for coming along our journey.
Founder, Laws Whiskey House
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