By Richard Thomas
Although the list of small distillers that have produced bonded and fully mature whiskeys is now a long one and keeps growing, not all of them lean heavily or have moved entirely into that category. Whenever I am asked for a short list of small producers who have gone in that direction, Colorado’s Laws Whiskey House is always on it. The distillery had bonded whiskeys in mind from the start, some of their expressions are available only as bondeds, and the age of those bonded expressions keeps inching upwards.
One such example is the most recent release of Laws Centennial Bottled in Bond Wheat Whiskey. The brand is officially billed as “over four years old,” but the most recent release is formally a five year old bottled in bond. Their most recent bonded bourbons and ryes have been clocking in at 6 years old. The statutory requirement for bonded whiskeys is four years old, and few examples both going beyond that.
Another interesting feature of this whiskey is the mash. To be a wheat whiskey, the mash must be 51% or greater wheat. Laws went all the way to 100% wheat, and chose the namesake Centennial varietal, a white spring wheat. Most wheat whiskeys use red winter wheat, which is hardier and also harder, an odd thing to say when one considers wheated bourbons and wheat whiskeys are supposed to be floral and soft.
If you know wheat whiskey, you probably became acquainted with it via Heaven Hill’s, Bernheim. Your next stop on the wheat whiskey path should be Centennial Bonded.
The whiskey has a coppered look in the glass, and an airy, fragrant nose. The scent leads with the smell of a prairie in bloom, and that is very recent in my memory because it’s June and I’ve been out hiking in the Kentucky prairie a handful of times this Spring. It’s a dry day on the prairie though; the texture is dry, not damp. Accenting this is a smear of sharp marmalade and rich honeyed sweetness.
That honey is much more prevalent on the palate, coming to share center stage. The citrus current continues, but turns more herbal. It’s now more akin to a tea seasoned with orange zest and garden herbs than jam. The finish takes the biggest twist of all, turning to pine and pepper.
Centennial Bonded Wheat Whiskey is a very flavorful, lovely pour, and a surprisingly sophisticated one for a 5 year old. Frankly, the only reason I don’t recommend it as the wheat whiskey everyone should try is I don’t want to be misleading: most of them aren’t this good.
Expect to pay $70 to $75 per bottle for this item, but it’s worth it.