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Mile High Spirits is back at it again. After a slew of 5 year old releases in 2022 (bourbon and rye whiskey), their new wheated bourbon mash bill has finally reached five years old too. Mile High Spirits has been selling a wheated bourbon as far back as 2021.
It turns out that wheated bourbon was produced and released on a smaller scale. It was initially aged in 30 gallon barrels – a deviation from their use of a standard 53 gallon barrels like in all their other products.
I’m not sure what the 30 gallon barrels were supposed to demonstrate, but it surely paved the way for their newest iteration (which uses 53 gallon barrels) I’m reviewing today.
Mile High Spirits changes their look
Let’s start off by talking about the packaging. This is the third glass change in almost as many years. Mile High Spirits had previously used a unique long-neck bottle in their early days.
That was a fun bottle that stood out on shelves and produced a very pronounced “glug glug” sound as it poured. But when the glass shortage began to impact everyone in 2021, MHS was forced to switch bottles.
The new ones were produced in the United States and came with a screw cap. I’m not sure how consumers felt about the look, but at least the labels stayed the same.
Now Mile High has switched back to a more traditional shape that looks like the Old Forester Whiskey Row or Belle Meade bottles. It even comes with a real cork. The best part is the Colorado state flag shrink wrap that seals each bottle around the neck.
What makes Mile High’s Wheated Bourbon recipe different?
The wheated bourbon recipe uses 70% Colorado Sweet Corn, 20% Wheat and 10% Malted Barley. Now stick with me here because it’s going to get slightly confusing. They don’t use just one type of wheat, they use three.
There’s a Minnesota White Wheat to impart a doughy and malty character. Then there’s a Colorado White Wheat which should contribute an earthy and bready profile. Finally there’s (German) Cara Wheat which adds creaminess, caramel, almond and biscuit notes.
The Malted Barley portion consists of two different kinds of barley: Honey Malted Barley and a standard 2-Row. The honey malt (which is named as such because it gets roasted a bit longer and develops a darker, honeyed appearance) contributes malted sweetness like an unfiltered honey syrup or agave syrup.
I know I should geek out over the various wheats and malted barley being used, but it’s the sweet corn that grabbed my attention first. Sweet Corn makes for a very different profile in bourbon – and it also makes it much more expensive.
From my understanding, sweet corn contains less starch than feed corn, meaning more of it must be used during fermentation. I’ve had sweet corn bourbon from a local distillery in Indiana (Old 55) and found it to produce a very fragrant and perfume-like profile. Will that be my experience with this bottle too?
All of these grains were then fermented and distilled on MHS’s pot still prior to being put into a standard 53 gallon sized barrel at 115 proof. This means it gained almost 20 proof points over the last 5 years of aging, wow! Then it was aged at their warehouse which is located within the city limits of Denver.
I will admit beforehand that craft wheated bourbon isn’t always my cup of tea. I’ve found that, for whatever reason, wheated bourbon is harder to get right compared to bourbons that use rye as their small grain.
I think a lot of it has to do with wheated bourbon needing more time in a barrel to mature correctly. If it’s not mature enough, the risk for developing off-flavors is increased. But Mile High is usually very confident in the samples it sends me, so does this mean they cracked the code on how to make it right? Let’s find out.
This single barrel comes in at a sweltering 133.1 proof – making it the hottest barrel I’ve had yet from them. Let’s find out how they did. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.
Nose: The nose has a pleasant mix of sweet scents like shortbread cookies, cornbread soaked in honey and Halloween Candy Corn. At 133 proof, the ethanol will get to you as you sniff it; there’s just no way around it. Thankfully, there are some other scents that keep it interesting like Cocoa Puffs, coffee grounds and hay.
Palate: Experienced bourbon drinkers will probably be able to shrug off the heat from first couple sips. But it will catch up with you the longer the session goes on. Waves of Cinnamon Red Hots, bubblegum and caramel leave a satisfyingly complete taste on my tongue.
The more I roll it around in my mouth, the more I can find dark chocolate notes mixed with pancake syrup. Vanilla frosting, cherries and Good & Plenty candies can also be found. The latter is odd because that would be a note I would find if rye grain was used. Overall, this is a sweet and rich bourbon that is pretty hot. But not too hot to not enjoy it.
Finish: The heat coming off of my tongue is the first thing I notice when the sip is complete. There are lingering notes of caramel, more bubblegum and candy canes. I can even find Cinnabon roll flavors too. The length of the finish sees a rapid drop-off of the heavier flavors. This allows the more mild bubble gum and candy cane notes to linger for longer.
This is a big, brash bourbon. It rides the knife’s edge of being too much to handle. I kept bracing myself for off-notes to jump up and ruin my experience, but nothing seemed to pop up. The one thing I was intrigued about was how I found two notes that didn’t belong – bubblegum and coffee grounds. Normally these are traits I’d find in distillate that used rye.
In particular, I’ve always found them in other Fireside products and assumed it was because of the rye. But now that I’ve found it in their wheated bourbon, I’m beginning to think that it’s a result of their yeast or something specific to their maturation process.
And while they might not sound like two flavors you want to find in a bourbon, I can vouch for how nicely they compliment the experience as a whole.
There are very few wheated bourbons on the market made by a craft distillery that impress me. So when I say that Mile High has produced one of the few that do, I don’t do it lightly. I fully appreciate the fact that they took the time to let it age a full five years (most of the ones I’ve tried are 2 to 3 years old).
This helped give it the ability to develop into a much more refined product. Don’t get me wrong, it could still evolve into something even better if it spent more time in the barrel (and I think they are doing this).
But at 5 years old, if it wasn’t at least this good, I’d say there would be no point in letting it age longer. Mile High should keep aging it to see the heights it would achieve.
In the meantime, this is one of the more unique bourbons you can buy on the market right now. When it comes to the proof, age and distillery location there’s not much else that can touch it in terms of exclusive uniqueness.
I know most of my friends spend a lot of time and money buying, drinking and collecting the same kinds of whiskies just to show them off. But after a while their collections all start looking the same.
When will it become socially acceptable to start sprinkling unique single barrels from newer distilleries into their collections? I think the time is now, especially when a craft distilleries are improving more and more. And this bottle of Fireside Wheated Bourbon is the perfect bottle to start with.
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