Wilderton is a craft non-alcoholic distillery based in Oregon whose founders Brad Whiting and Seth O’Malley “came together for a new vision of distilling.” That vision? To create botanicals-based distillates without alcohol, their premise being that flavor makes a great cocktail, not booze.
To achieve the level of complexity and character needed to carry a cocktail, the ingredients lean heavily on botanicals, both those native to the Pacific Northwest as well as exotic varietals from around the globe. The process looks to the traditional methods employed for spirits distilling, as well as tea-making, cooking, and perfumery. Altogether it’s quite the alchemists’ lineup.
Let’s observe these two inaugural expressions more closely.
Wilderton Botanical Distillates Lustre – The nose is heavy on the florals and, given the reference point of perfume-making in their process, the likeness to scented satchels and perfumes can only be intentional. It is worth noting the intensity of the nose and strong comparison to perfume, since this may not appeal to everyone. The drink itself is surprising light in flavor, where the feel of spicy peppers and silky mouthfeel is more pronounced than any flavoring. The website indicates that it can be prepared neat or mixed in cocktails. But I cannot recommend drinking this neat nor mixing this with just seltzer and pouring it over ice; the flavor isn’t concentrated enough to withstand any dilution. However, the floral, botanical, and pepper notes do lend the product some complexity and character in a more complex cocktail or when used with a more full-flavored mixer. I mixed this with Q’s hibiscus ginger mixer and found it to be a more interesting non-alcoholic beverage than if I had used seltzer as the base. B
Wilderton Botanical Distillates Earthen – The nose again is very heavy on the botanicals, this time with more medical herbs such as mint, licorice, and cardamon. Even though the label describes the profile as featuring “spice, wood, smoke,” it still presents some sweetness over those bitter hints. The spice heat from white peppercorn greets the palate first, akin to the pleasant sting of biting into a jalapeño pepper. The rest of the palate is very subtle; other than the tingle of the peppercorn, the flavor itself is merely a hint of tea and herbs. It’s another one that is not very interesting drunk neat or with just an ice cube. For kicks, I crushed some watermelon and added some Q tonic water with the Earthen and poured it over ice with some mint leaves. It turned into a refreshing spicy version of a watermelon agua fresca. The peppery spice really becomes the main attraction, with dry herbal tea notes helping to upgrade this non-alcoholic concoction from the conventional. B
each $33 / wildertonfree.com