December 3, 2020
“Craft” bourbon is booming, and I think that’s great for bourbon. In my opinion, New Riff and Wilderness Trail are two of the better-known “craft” distilleries releasing their own distillate, and for what it’s worth they both happen to be based in Kentucky. Both distilleries offer robust single barrel programs, and bottlings from both have been appearing on shelves in my area for a while now. Since they’re cut from the same “craft” Kentucky bourbon cloth, I’ve always wondered how different their bourbons could be. Now that I’ve finally reviewed cask strength single barrel versions of both, I’m setting out to compare them head to head to find out just how different they are. Let’s find all of that out in this New Riff vs Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon comparison.
Note: Because both of these are single barrel bourbons, your experience may differ. That’s just the inherent magical nature of single barrel bourbon.
The below table outlines key facts and figures for each bourbon.
New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon and Wilderness Trail Single Barrel bourbon may both be cask strength Kentucky bourbons, but they are worlds apart. New Riff Single Barrel is ridiculously vegetal, earthy, and herbal while Wilderness Trail Single Barrel is more traditionally caramel, citrus, and vanilla driven, with supporting licorice, spice, and occasionally amazing pecan pie and honeycomb notes. It’s puzzling because New Riff only has 6% more rye (30% vs 24%), yet expresses it so differently. New Riff and Wilderness Trail have very distinct, yet great, characteristics, and it’s exciting to experience how these distilleries have different visions for their whiskeys.
To answer to which bourbon is better is not so straightforward. This particular New Riff Single Barrel is the bolder and “out there” bourbon, but I also enjoy Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon. To be honest, I’d probably drink the Wilderness Trail more regularly and New Riff to change things up. New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon is very good, but I can’t handle those dense vegetal, earthy, and herbal notes every day, just like I can’t drink peated Scotch every day. Overall, I’m calling this a tie because both are equally great, just in different ways and for different occasions.