DSR – KY – 005: Wilderness Trail Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel Bottled In Bond
Company/Distillery: Wilderness Trail Distillery
Location: Danville, Kentucky
Mash Bill: 64% Corn, 24% Wheat, and 12% Malted Barley
Age Statement: Bottled In Bond – at least 4 Years Old
Proof/ABV: 100 Proof/50% ABV
Color & Viscosity: Amber/Auburn in color. Thicker, oily viscosity that sticks to the sides of the glass. Legs leisurely develop and lightly trickle down the sides.
Purchase Price: $47.99 from the Liquor Barn, Kentucky, July 2020; 750 ml
Bottle Label Information:
“WT – Kentucky Straight Bourbon”
“Barrel No. 15009”
“Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Bottled In Bond”
“50% ALC. 100 Proof”
“Bottled In Bond”
“Made from locally sourced grains from an old, traditional mash bill of 64% corn, 24% wheat, and 12% malted barley. Copper pot distilled from a single fermented batch using our sweet mash process and put into the barrel at 110 proof.”
“Distilled, Aged, and bottled by Wilderness Trail Distillery, Danville, Kentucky”
“Bottle 271 of 461”
Wilderness Trail Distillery
Wilderness Trail Distillery is arguably one of the hottest “newish” bourbon distillers in Kentucky. The distillery is located approximately 80 miles southeast of Louisville, in the City of Danville, Kentucky, affectionately nicknamed “the birthplace of Kentucky.” In early 2020, Wilderness Trail was officially added as the 18th member of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
The history of Wilderness Trail begins in 2006, when co-founders Shane Baker and Pat Heist launched Ferm Solutions, also of Danville. Ferm Solutions prides itself on being “a leading research, product development, engineering, and technical service provider to the ethanol and distilled spirits industry.” Ferm Solutions provides specialty yeast strains developed specifically for distilled spirits and other alcoholic beverages such as beer. In addition, Ferm Solutions provides a wealth of knowledge in fermentation and distillation to clients on an as needed basis. (Source: Ferm Solutions)
Six years later, in 2012, Baker and Heist launched Wilderness Trail Distillery. So what sets Wilderness Trail apart in a crowded bourbon industry in Kentucky? There are several key differences in the way Wilderness Trail approaches the making of their whiskey. To start, the distillery makes sure to use 100% Kentucky grains and ingredients in their spirits. Secondly, Baker and Heist used their experience in the industry, including at Ferm Solutions, to develop and use a proprietary yeast strain in the fermentation process. Third, Wilderness Trail uses a proprietary Infusion Mash Process. This process uses a specific amount of heat to gelatinize starches to the exact point necessary to allow optimized grain quality throughout the process. Wilderness Trail was the first distillery to implement a clean steam boiler – a process that helps the distillery keep harsh unwanted flavors from entering their products. Finally, Wilderness Trail is one of the few distillers in the industry to use a sweet mash recipe as opposed to the more common sour mash recipes.
How is sweet mash different from sour mash? Typically after distillation, or the separating of alcohol from the grain and water, the residual grains and water mixture will be left in the bottom of the still. This liquid is commonly referred to as the spillage or backset. The distiller will take this backset and add it to the next batch’s fresh grains and water – giving it the name “Sour Mash”. Sour Mash helps distillers by balancing the pH levels of the mash and adding additional beneficial nutrients. Sweet mash is a fresh mash of grains and water each time, having no backset added. The use of sweet mash opens the distillery up for more set-backs during the fermentation process than does sour mash. As a result, it is not used as much in the industry.
Wilderness Trail approaches the art of making bourbon as if it were a science. This is not a surprise when you consider the fact that Mr. Baker graduated from the University of Kentucky with his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. Team that up with Mr. Heist who obtained his Bachelor of Science, Master of Science, and Ph.D. in Plant Pathology and Microbiology from the University of Kentucky. To say this team is highly educated and scientific, would the understatement of the year.
The distillery produces 216 barrels per day, using a 40 foot 36-inch beer column still which is double distilled continuously through a 500 gallon copper doubler. A 250 gallon Vendome Pot Hybrid Still is primarily used to produce their rum and vodka products. Current list of products include Blue Heron Vodka, Harvest Rum, Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey (green label), Wilderness Trail Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Bottled in Bond (black label), Wilderness Trail 6 Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (silver label) and Wilderness Trail Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel Bottled in Bond (yellow label).
Source: Wilderness Trail Distillery
Tasting Date/Vessel: October 11, 2020 – Neat in Glencairn Glass; Second time with a splash of distilled water.
Christian: This offering from Wilderness Trail starts with a delicate nose that contains hints of floral and a light sweetness. As I nose the glass, the very first aroma I pick up is a dose of honey and an ever so slight citrus note, very reminiscent of honeysuckle. After I give the glass a quick swirl, warm vanilla bean and brown sugar make an appearance. I also notice a very light earthy flavor similar to alfalfa hay. Adding distilled water to the pour really increases the overall sweetness of the nose. Warm brown sugar and caramel syrup step forward, bringing to mind a freshly popped bowl of sweet kettle corn.
Mike: Soft honey sweetness initially comes through, followed up with an oily citrus rind bite overtaking the subtle sweetness. A gentle swirl releases oatmeal and brown sugar aromas, a dominant fragrance I’ve honed in on with wheated bourbons recently. Drawing the Glencairn away from my nose, the honey sweetness reemerges with a side of mild oak essence.
Christian: This bourbon has a nice, delicate mouth feel. Wilderness Trail is not overly sweet on the palate. Baking spices, such as all spice and cinnamon, dominate early. As I continue to sip the whiskey, my mouth is filled with oak from the barrel. This taste really stood out in comparison with the other flavors. An accompaniment of genuine leather and whole grain cereal tickle the taste buds. The water adds a silky quality to the mouth feel. The flavor on the palate really transitions to a brown sugar and maple syrup oatmeal profile. The flavors are not overpowering, but definitely noticeable.
Mike: An amazing custard sweetness taunts the tip of my tongue. Hints of vanilla and vintage leather dominate the palate. Lightly sweetened oatmeal balances nicely on the back of the tongue.
Christian: This Wilderness Trail Single Barrel provides a lingering medium to long finish that has a delayed but warm Kentucky hug. Overall, the pour seems a bit dry, leaving me desiring a sip of water after finishing the glass. As the flavors transition through the finish, I pick up a hint of apricot and a slight inkling of mint in the very back. It is in the finish that the hay from the nose becomes noticeable again – not unpleasant or overbearing, just a slightly noticeable earthy note coming through. The addition of water really diminishes a lot of the flavors experienced in the finish. Apricot is still present, but with a side of graham crackers. The Kentucky hug remains pronounced, however, some of the harder edges have softened.
Mike: I notice a medium to long finish with a moderate burn that fades, then later resurfaces down in the chest. Baked chocolate pastries materialize in the mouth, with a slight touch of fresh mint. It’s as if I’ve nibbled on a dark chocolate mint candy.
Christian: In the past few years, Wilderness Trail has really been making a lot of noise in the Kentucky Bourbon scene. We first came across them on a trip to Kentucky several years ago and only bought 1 bottle each. That turned out to be a mistake, as this offering really took off and has zero availability in North Carolina. We really appreciate the Milburns for bring us this bottle back from Kentucky for this review.
Wilderness Trial Single Barrel Bottled In Bond is a nice approachable bourbon that can be enjoyed by new whiskey drinkers and grizzled veterans alike. The bourbon offers a well rounded experience with flavors that are complimentary, creating a good symmetry to the pour. If you have never had Wilderness Trail, I think it offers a good value and is worth the purchase of a bottle for your drinking enjoyment. It is not likely to “knock your socks off” or be a life altering experience, but what you are going to get is a solid bourbon, that is enjoyable to drink, at a reasonable price point. Go ahead and give it a shot, I don’t think you will be disappointed.
Rating: 3.33 Rickhouses
Mike: I really enjoy wheated bourbons and this offering from Wilderness Trail is well rounded. Not overly complex in flavors, but delightfully balanced with those flavors that are present. Although not currently available in NC, this is a more than suitable bourbon at a reasonable price. If you come across this wheated bourbon, I would recommend you pick this one up. In fact, pick up two!
A splash of water really opens up the nose for me. The brown sugar oatmeal jumps out of the glass. The addition of water softens the overall finish as it initially felt flat, but a noticeable cinnamon candy flavor replaced the dark chocolate and mint.
Rating: 3.75 Rickhouses