For a spirit to be bourbon, we all know by now that the mash bill needs to contain at least 51 percent corn. The remaining 49 percent is usually made up of some mixture of barley and wheat (such as Maker’s Mark) or barley and rye (such as Bulleit). More often than not, distillers choose between wheat and rye as their third base grain and very rarely do the two find themselves in the same bourbon.
There is a small category, though, of bourbons that do contain both at the same time. These four grain bourbons take corn, wheat, malted barley, and rye in various levels (other than the 51 percent corn) and pull from them not only the sweet corn notes or the bready barley flavors, but also a blend of creamy mouthfeel from the spiciness of the wheat and rye.
We’ve collected three of the front-runners in the four grain bourbon game (and another four grain non-bourbon whiskey) for those of you who are looking to expand your palate a little and see what else is out there when it comes to bourbon.
Hudson Four Grain Bourbon, $45
Made at the first whiskey distillery in New York since Prohibition, Hudson’s Four Grain bourbon presents vanilla and praline flavors in a neat, delicious little package. The majority of the grains used in production come within just a few miles of the distillery itself (located in Gardiner, New York), and every bottle of finished product is hand labeled and dipped in wax.
Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain Bourbon, $70
If you’re a whiskey-head, E.H. Taylor is nothing new to you. What may be new, though, is the four-grain bourbon expression. This bottled-in-bond bourbon was created in 2005, according to the original press release, but carries no age statement on the bottle itself. The age on this is higher than the others on the list, and that befits the whiskey. You’ll find fruity and vanilla notes leading the way into oak and spice, and, frankly, everything nice. ($70)
Bluebird Distilling Four Grain Bourbon, $50
One of three whiskeys made by this Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, distillery (they also make white and aged rye whiskeys), this four grain bourbon is distilled only once and produces spicy cinnamon flavors that mix well with the vanilla and the mouthfeel coming from the wheat. Overall, its a well-balanced bourbon in an attractive bottle that will look nice on your shelf.
Koval Four Grain Whiskey, $50
While this isn’t a bourbon, Koval’s Four Grain Whiskey should still go on your list. Made from oat, malted barley, wheat, and rye, this whiskey delivers banana on the nose and a palate that is nice and creamy with a rye spice finish. If the addition of oat sounds intriguing, Koval also makes an oat whiskey and a millet whiskey, both of which are worth trying.