Kentucky Rye – Wilderness Trail Single Barrel 56.5%

Our host set himself a very clear goal – to bring together a quartet of Kentucky Rye that reflects the range of possibilities…

Next up was a single barrel from Wilderness Trail at full cask strength… Spoiler alert! This was simply exceedingly drinkable, pairing perfectly with a cigar!

In this case the magic lies in a few things these folks are doing a bit differently….  They talk of their unique yeast strains, proprietary Infusion Mashing Process, chemical free steam, largely locally sourced grains from nearby farms (except barley from the northern US)… but what is truly unique is the use of sweet rather than sour mash.

Sour mash uses spent mash from the previous batch in the new one, reducing bacterial infestations and the preferred method since the 1800s. Sweet mash is ‘fresh’ each time and considered ‘risky’ due to potential for contamination. Hence the guys at Wilderness Trail designed their whole approach around a highly sanitized process that enabled them produce spirit that is “softer” and “more flavorful”. You can read more about this in Fred Minnick’s Forbes’ article.

As always, what matters most is what we found in our tasting….

Wilderness Trail Single Barrel 15017 Kentucky Straight Rye 56.5%

  • Nose – What a nose! Toffee, caramel, juicy
  • Palate – Fabulous! Sweet desert, soft and sooo smooth, quite chewy… and while certainly was from the Rye family, there were other things going on that blended together rather well, some sweet spices, tobacco leaf and caramel
  • Finish – Long, sweet with a lovely spice

We quite enjoyed this one. You could hear appreciative words around the room “Fabulous” “Wow what a finish!” “Zero burn” In short, it went down rather well with the most balanced character – sweet but not too sweet, spice but not too much spice, quite delightful on the nose, substance on the palate with a terrific finish.

As usual, we set it aside to try the last one – Angel’s Envy – which was pure burnt caramel and treacle. When we returned to this one, what stood out was how everything simply worked together – each element adding its bit but none too much. It was no surprise when the Gurkha Seduction cigar was paired with the Wilderness Trail.

I was curious about this one as it clearly held its own… It was sweet, well rounded with a a lovely balance… again it was only when I sat down to write my tasting notes that I learned this combines corn and barley from a sweet rather than sour mash – clearly accounting for its character.

Definitely one to watch out for!

What did the folks at Wilderness Trail have to say?

Our Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskeys are offered as a Cask Strength release. We have the lowest entry proof we know of in Kentucky. We barrel at 100 proof to highlight the balance of the grains and alternate solubility expression from the barrel. Our three-grain recipe is 56 percent rye, 33 percent corn and 11 percent malted barley. Our rye mash bill is one we created for a broader balance of flavor to offset the typical high ryes commonly found. We use Kentucky-grown Heritage rye from our local KY Proud farm. We enter the new, air-dried #4 char, 53-gallon barrels at 100 proof for our Rye Whiskey and age until maturity in our barrelhouse. We age our Rye Whiskeys on the upper floors of our Rickhouses A & B, arguably one reason for their vibrant expression at 3 + years. We plan to age our Ryes as long as our Bourbons — in the 6-8 year age range — but we do plan to introduce some 3 and 4 year old Rye Whiskeys as Cask Strength releases. We just keep finding wonderful honey-barrels with great expressions that need to be explored.

What else was on our Kentucky Rye menu?

Interesting in receiving more Whisky Lady posts? Why not follow on:

BMC Bourbon – Four Roses Small Batch 45%

This Kentucky small batch bourbon wasn’t originally part of the trio, however our host received it as a rather timely gift and decided to bring it along as an “appetizer” to our main “meal.”

As we poured, we compared notes on our preferred standard bourbons… names that came to mind included Blanton’s, Elijah Craig and yes – Four Roses… ideally with a nice large chunk of ice.

However, true to our tasting traditions… we sampled each first neat, then some added water, then each bourbon was set aside until all were tasted for a revisit… followed by closing which whisk(e)y we thought could best partner our cigar.

Four Roses Small Batch 45%

  • Colour – Bright yellow straw
  • Nose – Musty sweet mash, wood, bit of citrus, pear drops, oily orange, sweet tobacco leaf or sweet grass, loads of sour mash, hay…
  • Palate – Very smooth and a bit peppery
  • Finish – Orange zest with some thinking perhaps a chaser of anise
  • Water – Makes it spicier initially then once it settles down simply dilutes
  • Revisit – Coming back for a revisit after sampling the others – wow! Pear with sweet white flowers, certainly very easy going

Overall? We were reminded of why this bourbon came to mind in our collective short list. Truth be told, most of us are not typically bourbon drinkers unless it happens to be cocktail hour! In which case, having a base with more power is preferred.

As for what the folks over at Four Roses have to say?

  • Nose – Mellow spice, rich fruit, hints of sweet oak & caramel.
  • Palate – Mellow, ripened red berries, dried spice, well-balanced, rich.
  • Finish – Soft, smooth & pleasantly long.

We tried it from a closed bottle in Mumbai on March 2019.

As for what this would set you back? It remains quite affordable… currently selling on Master of Malt for approx $30.

BMC’s Bourbon Night

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Brush with Bourbon – Elmer T Lee 45%

Last in our trio of bourbon’s at 1602 Dundas was a dram from Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky who produce Blanton’s, W. L. Weller, E. H. Taylor and Buffalo Trace among others. Elmer T Lee is named after their Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee.

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon 45%

Image: LCBO

And what did we find?

  • Nose – Sweet mash, fruity cinnamon spice, over ripe fruits
  • Palate – Grape, raisins, bitter dry oaky, spicy
  • Finish – Slow bitter finish

Elmer T Lee has the clear and unmistakable stamp of Kentucky Bourbon character – lots of fruit, spice, bold and impossible to ignore.

While we split a 30 ml shot, a 750 ml bottle can be purchased at a Toronto LCBO for CND 54.95. Here what they have to say…

LCBO’s Tasting & Serving Notes

Complex and addictive. Scents of cinnamon, hazelnuts, and dried fruit precede big flavors: cinnamon spice, raisinated and plummy, like Madeira or Sherry. Long finish, with a bit of a bite. Score – 97. (Kara Newman, Wine Enthusiast, Sept. 2010).

Bourbon’s sampled at 1602 Dundas in Toronto in September 2017:

Other forays into American whiskies from Buffalo Trace:

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Kentucky Bourbon – Following the buffalo trail…. with Buffalo Trace 40%

Last in our Kentucky straight bourbon revisit is Sazerac‘s Buffalo Trace – the distillery‘s name sake whisky

Buffalo Trace

As usual, we sampled blind then revealed the whiskey… Here is what we found:

Buffalo Trace

  • Colour – Dark reddish gold
  • Nose – Citrus honey flowery perhaps a little fruit
  • Palate – Spirity spice, chewy, a little harsh and dry
  • Finish – Stretched after taste, slightly bitter
  • Add water – Enhanced the sweet and spice

Debate: Some preferred the WL Weller, another thought the Buffalo Trace had more character…

Here’s what the folks over at Buffalo Trace have to say:

Ancient buffalo carved paths through the wilderness that led American pioneers and explorers to new frontiers. One such trail led to the banks of the Kentucky River where Buffalo Trace Distillery has been making bourbon whiskey the same way for more than 200 years. In tribute to the mighty buffalo and the rugged, independent spirit of the pioneers who followed them, we created our signature Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.


This deep amber whiskey has a complex aroma of vanilla, mint and molasses. Pleasantly sweet to the taste with notes of brown sugar and spice that give way to oak, toffee, dark fruit and anise. This whiskey finishes long and smooth with serious depth.

Here’s what others have to say about Buffalo Trace:

Other whiskies in our Kentucky bourbon evening included:

It was an interesting departure to take a little tipple trip to Kentucky.

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Kentucky Bourbon – 1792 Ridgemont Reserve 46.85%

Next up in the Kentucky straight bourbon revisit is Sazerac Barton’s 1792 Ridgemont Reserve.

This bourbon is named after the year Kentucky became a state. Originally released as an 8 year, since 2013 the distillery removed the age statement. There was also a wee bit of a kerfuffle over using ‘Ridgemont Reserve’ which apparently people confused with ‘Woodford Reserve’ hence if you search for a bottle today, may only find it labelled as 1792!

1792 Ridgemount Reserve

As usual, we sampled it blind and here is what we found…

1792 Ridgemont Reserve

  • Colour – Dark reddish gold, perhaps a hint paler than the others sampled the same evening
  • Nose – Aged rancio, sweet overripe bananas, strong rye quality, after time became fruity floral with some pepper spice
  • Palate – Dry weak body, cinnamon, astringent on the tongue
  • Finish – Very dry finish

Speculation was likely a straight bourbon with rye – turns out we were right!

Unveiling: The distinct feature of this bourbon is that it is produced in small batches.

For my vote, this is an uncomplicated, affordable bourbon with a dash of rye that could rock as a base for cocktails or an easy option to have on hand for parties. However, given the difficulty obtaining ‘phoren’ (that’s foreign folks!) whiskies in India, this wouldn’t be a top priority bringing back after a trip abroad.

Here’s what others have to say about Barton’s 1792 Ridgemont Reserve:

Other whiskies in our Kentucky bourbon evening included:

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Kentucky Bourbon – W L Weller Special Reserve 45%

Next up in our Kentucky straight bourbon revisit is Buffalo Trace Distillery‘s W. L. Weller Special Reserve. As they put it “made in Kentucky, enjoyed worldwide.”

W L Weller Special Reserve

As usual, we sampled it blind and here is what we found…

W L Weller Special Reserve

  • Colour – Dark burnished copper
  • Nose – Banana toffee, sweet vanilla, caramel
  • Palate – Spicy honey sweetness, perhaps a pinch of nutmeg? (some disagreed)
  • Finish – Warm
  • Add water – Even spicier, then mellowed out


  • “One track… one direction.”
  • “A lot more body than a regular Bourbon.”
  • “Has all the ‘ticks’ for bourbon…. though a bit predictable.”

Unveiling: Straight bourbon with wheat substituting for rye.

Like many other bourbons, what is eminently reasonable as a daily dram in the US is well neigh impossible to find and hardly affordable in India.

Part of the Sazerac stable, this is what the Buffalo Trace folks have to say about their bourbon:

The Original Wheated Bourbon Whiskey features an exceptionally smooth taste, substituting wheat for rye grain. Bottled at 90 proof, this bourbon stands out with its burnt orange color. Its softer flavor notes make this bourbon great for sipping or making cocktails.


A sweet nose with a presence of caramel. Tasting notes of honey, butterscotch, and a soft woodiness. It’s smooth, delicate and calm. Features a smooth finish with a sweet honeysuckle flair.

Here’s what others have to say about WL Weller:

Other whiskies in our Kentucky bourbon evening included:

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on:

Kentucky Bourbon – A jazzy night in Singapore with Elijah Craig

After a rather brilliant evening in Singapore with jazz and Elijah Craig, I thought it time to pull up from the archives tasting notes from an evening focused on exploring Kentucky straight bourbon

(Photo: Whisky Exchange)

(Photo: Whisky Exchange)

Taking our usual approach we tried ‘blind’ then unveiled!

Elijah Craig 12 year 47%

  • Nose – Corn, medicinal, banana, wet leather
  • Palate – Sweet spice
  • Finish – Says hello and then flits off
  • Add water – Spice!!!!

We sampled back in the day when this was still a 12 year bourbon. Now it has been replaced with a NAS version which they say contains whiskey between 8 to 12 years….

We found that it is just what we’ve come to expect from a bourbon! Nothing complicated or nuanced, just good old straight up Kentucky bourbon. And if you happen to be in the US, its cheap too!

Jim Murray has said:

“About as complete a bourbon aroma as you are likely to find…one of the most beautiful noses found anywhere in the world today. A bourbon to keep in the mouth forever.” 

Mike over at Whisky Lately has this to say about Elijah Craig:

Elijah Craig 12 is named after Bourbon folk hero Reverend Elijah Craig. The commercial legend is that Rev. Elijah Craig was the creator of Bourbon. An early Kentucky distiller, he founded his distillery around 1789, but the story goes he was first to give Bourbon its unique characteristics. Apparently some of his whiskey barrels became charred in a fire, which is a key process in the making of modern Bourbon. The accidental results were apparently favorable, and thus, Bourbon was born. That’s most likely not true, but every Bourbon needs a story and that’s a good one.

What others have to say about Elijah Craig:

Other whiskies sampled during our Kentucky straight bourbon evening included:

You can also find Whisky Lady in India on: