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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Wilderness Trail Cask Strength

Like many, I don't have the time to hunt down rare bourbons during the weekday when they're shared on social media groups. My time to shop is at the start or even during the weekend, oftentimes when much of "the good stuff" is picked over and long gone. This time, I was rewarded on an early Saturday morning jaunt to a regional liquor chain store with Wilderness Trail Family Reserve Cask Strength as it sat on the counter by the front registers.

Good Things Come in Small Packages

I eagerly looked forward to a tour of the Wilderness Trail Distillery last Fall in Danville, Kentucky. For two decades, founders Shane Baker and Dr. Pat Heist have assisted large and small distillers improve their process and products by sharing their expertise in yeast fermentation. In 2012, they took the next logical step and began distilling their own products.

Today, the lineup includes rye whiskey as well as a wheated bourbon and small batch bourbon - both of which are produced as Bottled-in-Bond products. I've appreciated this approach to whiskey-making, allowing products to slowly mature to at least 4 years of age, rather than rushing a young product to market.

In 2020, Wilderness Trail graduated from the Kentucky Craft Bourbon Trail to be the 18th member of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. With more than 100,000 barrels of bourbon quietly again in their 6 warehouses, Wilderness Trail has grown rapidly towards a top-tier producer. Shane and Pat have propelled the growth with a unique product facility and standards.

Both the bourbon and rye whiskeys are made with KY Proud®-sourced ingredients. In addition, the proprietary Infusion Mashing Process allows the starches in the grains to gelatinize without degradation of the quality of the grains, resulting in a softer and flavorful distillate. In addition, a sweet mash process is utilized, meaning fresh yeast is used to start each and every new fermentation batch.

The Tasting

This Family Reserve Curation 2022 bottle was from barrel number 779814 which received an ISC #4 char. Using their small batch mash bill of 64 percent corn, 24 percent rye and 12 percent malted barley, the distillate incorporated yeast strain 921. It was then aged 4 years and 2 months in rickhouse B-E20-H7. The finished product is non-chill filtered and was bottled at 110.18 proof.

Eye: Golden amber with a blend of thick and thin viscous beads running down the inside of my glass.

Nose: A brief burst of alcohol is present, letting you know its full proof. A couple drops of water opens it up with an aroma of vanilla, butterscotch and baking spices.

Palate: A creamy blend of vanilla, pepper spice and oak char explode on all areas of my tongue. This is rich and full-flavored.

Finish: Long and exceptionally smooth for the proof, with browned butter and sugar, vanilla, spice and oak char. This leaves nothing on the table.

Overall: This was delicious. If not for the initial, brief burst of alcohol, I'd have not suspected this of being high proof. Rye whiskey isn't always "my thing", and I'd be the first to say I probably wouldn't be a lover of a high-rye bourbon. However, the likes of Wilderness Trail and New Riff have changed my mind (and palate) for the better. Corn balanced with spice and char result in a delightful sweet and savory mix. Be on the lookout for this and other releases from this rising star distiller.

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