WILDERNESS TRAIL BOURBON WHISKEY BiB
Single Barrel No. 150012OC
MASH BILL – 64% corn, 24% wheat, 12% malted barley
PROOF – 100
AGE – NAS (5+ years)
DISTILLERY – Wilderness Trail Distillery
PRICE – $54
BUY AGAIN? – I’d likely try an older cask strength outing of this mash bill, but not this BiB again, no.
Having very much enjoyed a bottle of the cask strength Wilderness Trail Rye, I was quite looking forward to what the distillery would do with a wheated mash bill.
Their sweet mash process, whereby each new batch of distillate is made entirely from scratch without any backset from former batches retained (as in the more common sour mash process), lended their rye a clarity and freshness that rivaled WhistlePig and Peerless. Cheaper than either of those two, the Wilderness Trail Rye, though itself not cheap at $65, became an instant fave for me among the mid-to-higher end ryes.
So when I saw this Wilderness Trail bottled in bond single barrel bourbon whiskey on sale for a few bucks off the average price, I went for it. At uncorking, I was disappointed. It was a bit boring, neither here nor there. The sweet aspects were slightly irritating and lacked grounding. It was like music that’s all treble and no bass.
But having had so many experiences whereby at uncorking a bottle didn’t impress, only to open up and reveal itself over time, I set it aside for a bit. Here now are some brief notes, taken about three weeks after uncorking and three pours into the bottle, and tasted in a traditional Glencairn…
COLOR – very warm yellows fading into toasted oranges
NOSE – faint but tart candied citrus peel and ginger, graham cracker, sliced wheat bread crust, dusty wood, dried apricot, all of it quite reserved so it took some time to pull it out of the glass
TASTE – honey and butter on very fragrant wheat toast, some tang from a bit of citrus zest, a bit of lightly burnt malt, after quite some time the candied ginger and citrus peel start to emerge again along with a dusting of cinnamon
FINISH – a fine prickly warmth, the wheat and malt aspects, just a bit of the honeyed butter and cinnamon
OVERALL – a bit muddled and reserved, though eventually with air it grows clearer and more forthcoming in its flavor profile
Well things have improved. Though the sweeter notes still stand out, they are now more integrated into the savory bread and malt notes. Now I’d say the bourbon is very much about the honey sugar notes and the wheat bread notes sharing front and center, side by side. Subtler aspects, like that burnt malt note or the citrus zest and candied ginger, are very shy to come out from behind them.
What a world of difference this is for me compared to the experience of the Wilderness Trail Rye. I find this wheated bourbon to be fairly plain, and the heavy emphasis on bread notes is not my favorite in a wheated bourbon. The creaminess is there, with a nice texture from a certain graininess and some pep from an emerging cinnamon on further sipping. But still the wheat bread predominates. There’s something dry about it that the honey and butter aspects simply do not soak into enough to balance out for my tastes.
I can imagine someone enjoying this bourbon. It’s quality stuff. Nothing about it tastes cheap or hastily assembled. It does not taste as complex, and its various flavors are not as deeply integrated, as the Wilderness Trail Rye. So it comes across as a less accomplished whiskey by comparison. But it’s definitely a quality product. I’m not comparing flavor profiles here, of course, as ryes and wheated bourbons are very different things. I’m referring to the overall impact of the tasting experience.
I’d be curious to try this bourbon with more age on it, or at a higher proof. The minimum age for a Bottled in Bond whiskey is 4 years, and Wilderness Trail bottles theirs at 5-6 years. So it’s already a bit more mature than the average bonded offering. Still, I wonder what flavors more years in the barrel, and that oomph that cask strength brings, might yield. Wilderness trail uses fairly low entry proofs—110 in this case—in an effort to maximize flavor during the aging process. Perhaps the 100 bottling proof, a requirement for Bottled in Bond status, though a boon to many whiskeys, is not showing this mash bill off at its best?
That’s according to my tastes, of course. You may dig it. If you’re okay with decidedly bready whiskeys and a low key personality, give it a go. On sale, I still paid a solid $54 tax and all. Typically it goes for just $5 to $10 more. Though its quality is not in question, as a tasting experience I don’t find it worth that price range. I’d rather pick up a McKenzie Wheated Bottled in Bond or single barrel, or even the Redemption Wheated Bourbon. Those tend to be a bit cheaper by comparison, and both offer far more robust variety in their taste profiles.
With a growing range of wheated bourbon offerings coming out, one can afford to be patient and picky.