Please note that this was a sample provided to us in exchange for an honest review and that in no way does that influence my opinions.
Wheel Horse Bourbon is a new to market, sourced, Kentucky Straight Bourbon from Latitude Beverage Co in partnership with Owensboro Distilling Company (formerly O.Z. Tyler Distillery). Unfortunately, the team at Wheel Horse weren’t available for an episode of Spirited, but they were gracious enough to let us ask their Spirits Director, Terry Lozoff, a few questions! I’ll post my tasting notes just below the Q&A for you guys.
Q: For a bourbon carrying an age of 2-4 years old can you explain this color? It’s extremely dark for such a young whiskey.
Terry: The whiskey is aged in number 4 char barrels in non climate-controlled rickhouses in Kentucky, so a combination of the heating/cooling effect and the barrel char allows the bourbon to pick up as much flavor and color from the barrel as possible.
Q: You’re one of the only brands to openly state that you’re sourcing product, and where from. What made you decide to go the sourcing route?
Terry: My company, Latitude Beverage, is in the business of launching and building spirits brands. We’re not in the business of building distilleries, at least not yet. You can think of us as an independent bottler, which is something that the whiskey industry has had for a very long time. Especially if you look to Scotch. It’s becoming more common in the American whiskey industry as well. That said, we certainly didn’t have to say where we are sourcing the whiskey from. But I believe that authenticity is essential, and that people want to know where their whiskey is coming from. So we’ve been very transparent from the start that Wheel Horse is a partnership between Latitude Beverage and Owensboro Distilling Company. I work directly with Jacob Call, the Master Distiller at ODC, to select barrels, blend batches and establish the Wheel Horse profile – including proof point. I’m really excited about the partnership we’ve created.
Q: Why 101 proof?
Terry: I’m a big fan of higher proof whiskeys for a number of reasons. One, higher proof means preserving more flavor (along with non-chill filtering). Two, a lot of people (including myself) like to drink at slightly higher proofs. And three, whiskey should be able to stand up to an ice cube or a cocktail. Higher proof whiskeys allow you to do that without watering the whiskey down too much. So coming out at a proof point below 95 was never really a question. When we were working on Rye Batch 1, I tasted the whiskey at 95 up to 105 and settled on 101 as a sweet spot. The whiskey tasted really good at that point, and wasn’t too hot for sipping neat. Once you get above 105-110 proof you start having to add water. Why 101 over 100? It’s just a little different than the norm.
Q: Where does the name Wheel Horse come from?
Terry: Historically speaking, the “wheel horse” was the horse closest to the wheels of a carriage or vehicle. It’s the horse that does the majority of the work. The term also referred to a person that works hard, without being concerned about recognition. The whole idea behind Wheel Horse was to create a whiskey that was very affordable and over-delivered for the price point. A whiskey that works hard and can be your every day go-to. At under $30 and at 101 proof, I believe Wheel Horse achieves that.
Q: Are there plans for more Wheel Horse releases in the future?
Terry: The Rye and Bourbon are our flagships. We will likely launch a single barrel program in 2021 or 2022, which would obviously be barrel proof releases. And as our stocks get older, we may consider releasing limited edition, age-statement older releases. But for now, the Wheel Horse Rye and Bourbon are what we’re focused on.
Q: Any plans for finished products?
Terry: I’m assuming you mean barrel-finished products? That’s always a possibility. Again, as we get some older barrels, we might consider doing special releases. I could see us experimenting with certain wine barrel finishes. But that’s very much TBD.
Sam’s Tasting Notes:
Nose: sweet caramel, butter, corn, subtle notes of chili and garlic powders. Notes of sweet cooked malt, as well as sweet wheat.
Palate: lightly rye forward, notes of toffee biscotti, for 101 it drinks light. A little milk chocolate on the mid palate, finished by hazelnut.
Appearance: Almost mahogany in colour with oily tears.
Overall: A little on the sweet side for me personally, but it would be a great introductory Bourbon or potentially an everyday sipper if the notes above are what you like!