Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Wilderness Trail Distillery. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
He did the mash
(The whiskey mash) It was a Kentucky smash
(He did the mash) It caught on in a flash
(He did the mash) He did the whiskey mash.
Or something like that… Wilderness Trail Distillery’s Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey largely has me thinking about mash. Mash is also often referred to as distiller’s beer or, if you are in other countries, wort. It is a mix of grain and water left to ferment, and is the starting point for all whiskey.
Wilderness Trail Distillery, located in Danville, Kentucky, got started in 2006. Founded by Shane Baker and Pat Heist, Wilderness Trail starts with a sweet mash (more on that later). They have three stills in total: a “250-gallon hybrid pot still and 16-plate rectification columns, and 18-inch and 36-inch continuous column stills.” They age their spirits in 53-gallon barrels from Independent Stave Company that are toasted and given a #4 char.
Before getting into what sweet mash is, let’s touch base with what the majority of bourbon producers are doing. That, of course, is sour mash. This refers to the use of a previous batch of ferment to act as a base for the next batch, which can be taken from the leftovers in the still. According to this article on distiller.com, this process was historically used to avoid bacterial growth while improving consistency.
Sweet mash, on the other hand, has a distiller starting fresh each batch. Sweet mash produces a cleaner distiller’s beer which allows for distilling to a lower ABV and a lower point of barrel entry.
In the same distiller article above, Jerod Smith is quoted talking about Wilderness Trail Distillery’s use of sweet mash. While it requires a higher level of cleanliness and attention to detail for consistency, it also allows them to do “their best possible job.” He also notes that it helps to set them apart in the whiskey market, but that sweet mash wouldn’t matter if they weren’t making a good product.
And I can confirm, this is a good product. Both neat and in a cocktail. I made one of my favorite bourbon drinks with it, a Gold Rush. This is a simple drink made with bourbon, honey, and lemon juice. The Wilderness Trail Distillery’s Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey turned this drink into a fall drink with a lovely apple cider twist to it. As for how it is neat? Read below for my notes.
Vital Stats: Barreled at 55% ABV and bottled at 50% ABV. Bottled in bond. Single barrel, barrel number 17B02A. Mash bill of 64% corn, 24% wheat, 12% malted barley.
Appearance: Amber in color with a little bit of straw yellow where it thins out. This has very slow long legs.
Nose: The smell is both of ripe fresh banana and caramelized banana. Little hint of vanilla and spices including black pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Palate: This bourbon is certainly something to sit with. It’s got a little heat up front to remind you of its alcohol content, but never gets overwhelming. I get flavors of brown sugar, butter, and bread up front. This transitions to a rich mid note that tastes of alcohol, in a good way. There is just a hint of banana flavor that is more in line with that banana flavored candy than what was on the nose.
This all finishes with a dry long finish of toasted oak, vanilla, and a bit of black pepper spice. The addition of water to this upped the sweetness and spice but made a lot of the individual flavors disappear. For me this is much more interesting out of the bottle than when diluted.