An introduction to the origins of Whiskey in the Wild sounds a bit like the opener to the standard bar joke: “a food chemist, pro hockey player, biotechnician, and physician walk into … er… the woods.” And they start a whiskey company. Or rather, they start a whiskey-centered lifestyle company catering to like-minded consumers with a love for the great outdoors, kicking things off with flavored Canadian whiskey and rather cool accoutrements for their packaging. The characters in question here include Gary Kehoe (food chemist) and Jeremy Roenick (retired NHL player), who challenged Gary to come up with something better than the usual Canadian whiskey they were accustomed to drinking. Two years later, Whiskey in the Wild has launched, with two expressions that come in a custom bottle that neatly cradles a flask.
Whiskey in the Wild Original Flavor – The Original expression starts with 3 year old Canadian whiskey, to which is added extracts of chocolate, vanilla, blackberry, and wild black elderberry. Given the proliferation of whiskey purists in the world these days (and growing), to give this whiskey a fair shake is to remember this is flavored whiskey.
The nose is sweet and creamy with prominent dark cacao and espresso notes, like you nose-dived into the top of a tiramisu. From across the room, the nose is so strong that it could also be mistaken for butter-rich waffles. Assuming the nose entices you, the palate does not disappoint and delivers all the promise of a dark, creamy slightly bitter and velvety dessert. It’s hard to pick out the blackberry and elderberry, but these subtle dark berry notes could be what provide a bit more gravitas to the sweetness and keep it from becoming cloying.
But is it particularly “in the Wild?” As much as I love hiking and being immersed in the majesty of hillsides and trees under an expansive sky, this pour takes me to a delicate cafe table at the edge of a sun-drenched piazza in Italy with a heavily cocoa-dusted frothy cappuccino served old school (sorry, third-wave art latte baristas).
The whiskey is never harsh nor does it offer outsized oak or spice notes nor anything medicinal, with just the right touch of kick. This is a slow sipper, quite satisfying when served neat, over ice, or for the truly whimsical, shaken with some crushed mint leaves as a version of an Andes after-dinner chocolate mint in a glass. I found this very enjoyable — once I kicked my straight whiskey bias to the curb — in measured sips. 70 proof. B+ / $90
Whiskey in The Wild Orange Flavor – This expression is as loaded aromatically as the Original. This time, the nose leans more heavily into dark chocolate, fewer coffee notes, and the clear presence of orange. It is everything you would expect of a luxury dark chocolate bar, laced with candied and slightly bitter orange rind. Ironically, the heady rich blackberry comes through a bit more clearly in this expression, maybe coaxed out by the added fruitiness of the orange. And once again, one is encouraged to think of this as a sweet palate-cleansing after-dinner chocolate orange liqueur. 70 proof. B+ / $90
As a side note, we really do need to look deeply into the unique packaging here. The bottle is uniquely shaped such that a custom steel flask fits inside of it (which is partly what is driving the premium pricing), and there is a groove in the protruding spout perfectly shaped for pouring the whiskey into the flask, and it’s all held together with heavy rubber banding. With their adventuring comrades in mind, the bottle is intended for base camp; the flask is for the day hike. This is one of the most innovative as well as one of the heaviest bottles I’ve ever held in my hand. Whiskey in the Wild has a nice vibe going on, and they’ve made a big bet traipsing so boldly into the novelty spectrum of the whiskey world. It will be interesting to see where this adventure leads them.