Quick, think of three states that produce the most corn. I guarantee Iowa was on that list, right? But do you know which state probably wasn’t? Montana. The history of agriculture within the state of Montana is as fascinating as it comes, but probably isn’t a good fit for this bourbon review. To sum it up though, crops have to be bred to survive the shorter growing season than most Midwestern states get. The land can also be unforgiving. But somehow a small distillery in Bozeman sources a local variety of sweetcorn (Bitterroot Valley to be precise) to create their two grain bourbon mashbill. I would never have suspected a bourbon made primarily from sweetcorn would be a thing in this part of the country, but here we are.
Wildrye gives out more details than most craft distillers do, such as using sweetcorn and malted barley for this bourbon. They also use small charred barrels to age it in for a year. Wildrye claims that 1 year in Montana is equal to 4 years of aging in other parts of the US, but that’s a claim that I’d take with a grain of salt. Aging distillate is harder to accomplish out west due to the lack of humidity, so what I’d be more interested in knowing is what the barrel entry proof is or if their warehouses are humidity controlled instead. Alas, this information is not given.
A one year old, 90 proof bourbon typically isn’t the greatest recipe for success, but I’m willing to give it a try. Plus, it’s from Montana and how many people have a bourbon from a Montana distillery in their collection? So with curiosity in mind, let’s dive in. I sampled this neat and in a Glencairn.
Nose: There certainly is a lot of corn up front. The most dominant scent I’d say is day-old cornbread. The sweetness is bright and unique, unlike typical caramels or brown sugars. Then it occurs to me, it’s like the smell of Karo Light Corn Syrup. Not a bad sweetness, just very unique. And then I arrive at one of the most peculiar scents in all of my tastings that I can only describe as “Yellow Gummi Bears.” That’s right, only the yellow ones because they typically don’t taste like a fruit or anything. There are two standard bourbon scents that linger around in the background though: light cinnamon and light vanilla that becomes steadily more perfume-y as the session goes on.
Palate: The palate starts off like a 1-year old bourbon normally would: young, raw and grainy. There’s a decent amount of ethanol, but not the mouth-burning kind, more like just an essence. There’s lots more Karo corn syrup on the tongue too. I am going to say this about the corn syrup note; it’s not offensive in taste and is kind of unique, but seasoned bourbon drinkers will likely not care for it. I can look past it and see it for what it is but it’s going to be a polarizing flavor. The palate wraps up with some standard bourbon notes of cinnamon and oak but there are some flavors that just aren’t meshing well with the rest of the drink like wet cardboard, Windex, cast iron scrapings and green apple skins.
Finish: The finish is devoid of sweetness. There’s fresh-cut green wood, creamed corn and honeydew melon. It is also a bit grassy and floral even though the mashbill contains no rye grain.
I can honestly see the concept that the head distiller at Wildrye was going for in this bourbon. It didn’t really work for me, but it is a sincere attempt to make something unique and different. I find most distillers in non-humid climates struggle to produce a whiskey that is sweet enough. I am speculating that Wildrye chose to use sweetcorn to solve that problem even though it still persists.
The lack of a flavoring grain simplifies the process, but it becomes a bit of a one-trick pony as far as tastes go. I’ve had similar heavy-corn bourbons and whiskies (High West Light Whiskey, Old Hamer Bourbon, etc) that have very similar profiles, but they still lack the complexity that rye or other flavoring grains give them.
The target audience of Five Drops Bourbon is likely not a bourbon enthusiast. It’s probably going to be the tourist that is in Bozeman to take in the sights and great skiing. They will want to unwind with a cocktail at a place that’s unique and has a small-town feeling. Wildrye checks that box with what they’ve created here, so don’t let my review stop you from mixing with this or enjoying it on the rocks. It’s all about the experience of where it came from.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
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