By Jake Emen
Big Bottom Whiskey in Oregon has been known in the past for their bourbons with unique cask finishes, such as those finished in Zinfandel wine casks, along with an overarching interest in experimentation. Still, Big Bottom hasn’t always been distilling their own juice, choosing instead the common path of new distilleries sourcing whiskey to get the ball rolling and cash flowing.
Now that the stills themselves are flowing, Big Bottom has debuted a new signature product, Big Bottom Barlow Trail Whiskey. It’s named after Mount Hood’s Barlow Road, a final segment of the Oregon Trail which dates back to 1846. It was a treacherous stretch of terrain that ultimately brought pioneers to places they had previously been unable to venture. So will Barlow Trail Whiskey take the American whiskey pioneers of our era on a similarly thrilling and successful journey?
Barlow Trail is a blended American whiskey, which includes Big Bottom’s straight bourbon in the mix. Beyond that, Big Bottom has been rather sparse on details, referring to it in materials as “a blend of three well-aged whiskeys with no neutral spirits.” More saying what it isn’t, than what it is.
Bottled at 91 proof (45.5%) – a Big Bottom staple stemming from the founder’s 1991 graduation class from The Citadel – the whiskey showcases an overall lightness, and a smooth, silky mouthfeel. A pale straw in the glass, the first impression on the nose is a caramel sweetness, with hints of molasses and rye spice. On the palate, the sweetness is both deeper in character, with notes of dark brown sugar and burnt caramel, while also less at the forefront. There’s pepper, rye and oak, as well as cereal grain.
The finish is sharp and a bit astringent, the sweetness from earlier long since vanished. Still, that just encourages you to take another sip and start anew. Add some water or ice for a mellower and even lighter taste, with grain and vanilla remaining as central players.
Big Bottom Barlow Trail Whiskey is easy drinking and light, which accomplishes a stated goal with the whiskey. Still, it’d be nice to know a bit more about it, both to dig deeper into what you’re getting now, while projecting where it could be heading in the future with more time spent in the barrel(s), and/or a transition to larger ones.
Big Bottom Barlow Trail Whiskey is offered at a suggested retail price of $29.95 for a 750 ml bottle, and can be found for sale online. Good bargain for a good dram.