wilderness trail single barrel bourbon cask strength review
Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon Potomac Wine and Spirits
Distillery: Wilderness Trail
Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA
Composition: 64% corn, 24% rye, 12% barley
Aged: 4 years and 7 months
Color: 1.2/2.0 on the color scale (chestnut, oloroso sherry)
From the Wilderness Trail website:
There’s nothing specific about the single barrel picks, so this is what they have for their standard releases – “Our Rye small grain Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskeys are offered as a Small Batch, up to 12 barrels per batch, which was the result of one fermenter. The goal of the Small Batch is to capture the total essence of more complex notes from multiple barrels from distillate of the same fermenter. We’ve decided to release the Small Batch Bourbon as a Bottled in Bond so fans of our Wheated Single Barrel Bourbon can do a side-by-side comparison.”
wilderness trail single barrel bourbon cask strength overview
Wilderness Trail is part of the new breed of whiskey producers, founded in 2013 and intermingled with other major distilleries in Kentucky (Danville to be exact). Since around 2019, they’ve been offering 4+ year old cask strength single barrel picks of both their rye bourbon and rye whiskey to show off what they can make. Single barrel picks are a great way to provide something interesting and unique to both retailers and afficionados (assuming that the whisky is good), and at this point a homemade 4+ year old cask strength single barrel bourbon from a craft distillery makes my whiskey senses tingle.
Up till now I haven’t had anything from Wilderness Trail, but lately it has been getting a lot of buzz so I wanted to learn more. In this review, I introduce myself through a Potomac Wine and Spirits pick of Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Cask Strength bourbon, aged for 4 years and 7 months in rickhouse A-N10A5. This should be interesting.
wilderness trail single barrel bourbon cask strength smell
Roasted coconut meat comes to the forefront with thick caramel, eucalyptus, citrus peel, oak char, and baked apples sprinkled with cinnamon and mint. This Wilderness Trail Cask Strength Single barrel is moderately oaky and dark, less from the wood and more so from the ample roasted sugar. There’s a lightly sweet and savory wheat bread and malt scent, as if it were wheated. It’s obviously not wheated given the mash details, but the freshly baked bread scent is interesting regardless. With 24% rye, often considered “high rye”, licorice and anise provide an herbal yet sweet quality that I really like. It may also add to the breadiness. The heat is a little potent at times, but it generally comes and goes and isn’t a problem. A word of advice though – this takes a while to open up so give it 30-40 minutes to air out if you can.
After swirling, Potomac Wine and Spirit’s Wilderness Trail pick emits dense and dark honey on bread with a layer of orange marmalade, cinnamon, vanilla buttercream, dried oak, cinnamon, licorice, and a sprig of mint. Now that some of the bourbon has dried on the glass sides, savory maple syrup finds its way into the nose, as well as a light nuttiness, mustiness, and white dog funk, making everything darker and more savory. The rye may contribute that toasted, almost nutty scent, but it’s far from the Heaven Hill or Jim Beam grassy nutty note. Picking through the sweetness are underlying apple and peach notes with a lot of cinnamon and nutmeg covered in alcohol. While not outspoken, that nice fruitiness suggests some maturity. Heat prickles out a little at times, but does taper with time. Overall, I’m enjoying the nose a lot. There are a number of bold and fragrant scents, but they’re not overly complex or layered (yet).
wilderness trail single barrel bourbon cask strength taste & aftertaste
Potomac Wine and Spirit’s Wilderness Trail Single Barrel bourbon is immediately sweet and spicy with caramel, malted grain, vanilla, oak, cinnamon, peach, and apple. Even though it’s so young, there’s a nice fruitiness that I don’t normally find in such young whiskey, which is usually more oaky and peppery. The cinnamon and nutmeg spice build as it sits in my mouth briefly, but is buoyed by a viscous mouthfeel, herbal anise, and heat that actually isn’t that intense. 56.5% ABV is no joke, but it’s restrained here.
With “chewing”, I taste a burst of honey, caramel, vanilla buttercream, cherry, orange, apple, bread, cinnamon, oak and just a hint of dry nuttiness, licorice, and chocolate. This Wilderness Trail single barrel bourbon packs big and bold sweetness with supporting ripe fruit, oak, and wood spice, all delicious. The fruitiness of all things is most surprising for me, something not often found in bourbon under 5 years old. Even with all that rye, it mainly provides an underlying but still noticeable herbal quality and light grassiness, but the licorice pops right as I swallow. While there is some heat as expected for the proof, it’s truly manageable for something this young and gives me more time to “chew” and taste all the flavors, as well as let the tannins build. I’m impressed with the layers that are there, but they don’t evolve with additional time, but that will come with age.
On the finish, I taste malty and slightly sweet bread with a little heat that continues into honey, citrus, apple, oak, toasted bread, and mint. Honeyed licorice shows up late to the party after a minute, lightening up the finish and ending with a lengthy and gentle honey and mint muddle. “Chewing” leaves toasted bread, honey, dried orange peel, cocoa, licorice, and mint. It’s a little more tannic this time around, but not overpoweringly so, as the oils coat my mouth. The licorice and anise from the rye also come through more this time. The finish is unexpectedly very long, so I’m pleased.
Place on the Whiskey Shelf
I’m impressed with Potomac Wine and Spirit’s Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon pick, especially at only 4 years and 7 months old. It’s big and bold but not necessarily very complex (yet), but over the week that I drank it (it really only lasted a week), the scents and flavors continued to improve and the alcohol dissipate. The dense caramel and vanilla buttercream sweetness and richness followed by toasted oak, spice (e.g, cinnamon, nutmeg), and fruit signal a healthy maturity. That developing fruitiness is also indicative of wonderful things to come, while the breadiness and less nuance still hint at its youth.
Now for a tangent – I hope that over time as the releases get older, the price will continue to hover around $60-70. Wilderness Trail is clearly doing things right and people should be trying their bourbon, but I worry that prices will skyrocket with age and make it inaccessible. At a relatively young age, the bourbon is just starting to hit its stride and I strongly believe that 6-7 year old barrel picks will be incredible; I’ll be waiting.
I’m very happy with my purchase and first experience with Wilderness trail. Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Cask Strength bourbons are definitely worth investigating and trying for yourself. Potomac Wine and Spirits did a great job picking and Wilderness Trail did a great job creating this bourbon, making me the winner.
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