Wilderness Trail 6-Year Small Batch
When we toured the Wilderness Trail distillery, I was looking forward to tasting their fine craft bourbon again. As we sat down for the tasting, we enjoyed their traditional Bottled-in-Bond, their Small Batch Bottled-in-Bond, and a 6-year Small Batch Bottled-in-Bond. While I had eyed the 6-year version in a regional liquor store, I wasn't sure if the flavor profile was worth the price tag. Now, I had a chance to find out the answer to my question.
Owners Shane Baker and Dr. Pat Heist are experts of fermentation with their non-distilling business Ferm Solutions. Their knowledge has allowed them to do the tricky process of a sweet mash. Most bourbons on the market utilize a sour mash process, meaning a portion of the spent mash is added to subsequent mashes, similar to adding a portion of the sourdough batter back to the starter to make the next batch of bread. Using a sweet mash process means a fresh batch of yeast is added to each batch of mash. This can be tricky and delicate to generate consistent flavor profiles and can be a true test of a distiller’s skill. The result of a sweet mash is to provide both a softer and more flavorful profile than traditional sour mashes. If you’d like to learn more about Wilderness Trail, check out our notes from a recent distillery tour.
The 6-Year Small Batch comes in the standard rectangular Wilderness Trail bottle with a gold label - similar to the 4-Year Small Batch. There is a grey-silver neck label with the distinguishing 6-Year age statement. The mash bill is 64% corn, 24% rye, and 12% malted barley. Wilderness Trail sources most of the grains locally and this version, along with their other whiskeys, are non-chill filtered, allowing some of the naturally occurring oils and esthers to remain in the finished product contributing to a richer mouthfeel and chew.
To be labeled as Bottled-in-Bond, the bourbon must be a product of a single distillation season, from one distiller, at a single distillery, stored in a federally bonded warehouse under US government supervision for at least 4 years, and the finished spirit bottled at 100 proof. I'm a huge fan of bottled-in-bond products, as they are age-labeled, and reflect a nod to the quality and stringent standards instituted more than 120+ years ago.
Eye: Dark amber with long, dripping legs displayed on the inside of the glass.
Nose: Exceedingly rich with vanilla toffee, butterscotch, and layered with warm fruit compote with vanilla cream.
Palate: Warm with vanilla to kick things off, followed by sweet caramel, spice and oak char. The non-chill filtered process produces a deliciously textured mouthfeel, allowing a full sensory experience.
Finish: Long and exceptionally smooth, featuring vanilla, dried fruits, well-balanced with a little spice and toasted oak.
Overall: This is absolutely delicious! I liked the Wilderness Trail Small Batch in a prior review; I LOVE this bourbon. The two extra years of warm summers and cool winters have allowed the distillate to develop and mature into an exceptional product. If you see this on a shelf near you, this is an exceptional one to add to your collection and one that tastes better than its age statement. Be sure to check out our full review of the Wilderness Trail tour.