Wheel Horse Bourbon is a new release from Wheel Horse Whiskey, which arrived on the scene earlier this year with Wheel Horse Rye. Wheel Horse may be a newcomer (the label is owned by the Boston-based Latitude Beverage Co.), but it’s made by Owensboro Distilling, which is the 10th oldest distillery in Kentucky.
Like the rye, Wheel Horse Bourbon is distilled in copper pot stills and aged between two to four years in new American oak. Its mashbill is composed of 70% corn, 21% rye and 9% malted barley. The whiskey itself is bottled at a pugnacious 101 proof.
Its nose is dominated by dry, dusty oak and vanilla, with supporting notes of leather, spearmint, and a touch of cherry. It starts hot on the palate, with a medium body and a pleasantly chalky texture.
The starting notes are of rich, custardy vanilla—something like the soft underbelly of a creme brûlée—coupled with candied pecans, which together had me thinking of a frozen Dairy Queen dessert. While those candied nut and vanilla notes are prominent they’re much more creamy than sweet, and the spirit’s bone-dry turn occurs at the center with a sharp, tannic snap of oak that grows increasingly prominent towards the back.
There it’s joined by leather and tobacco, followed up with nutmeg and cinnamon. Those ultra-dry warming spice notes lead the way onto a long, satisfying conclusion that’s woody, snappy, and spicy without ever feeling overwhelming.
Wheel Horse is a hot, spicy, and grippy bourbon that’s bound to please bourbon lovers. It’s aggressive without blowing off the roof, and that high-rye content cuts back on the sweetness. Yet at the same time, it maintains a wonderfully rich vein of vanilla.
While I enjoyed it neat, it made a dynamite Old-Fashioned, where its sweet vanilla and rye spice refused to be tamed by sugar or dilution. And at the exceedingly reasonable price of $27.99, you won’t have to think twice about using it in cocktails.
— 50.5% ABV