Wilderness Trail Distillery, an authentic Kentucky distillery
By Co-Founders Shane Baker and Pat Heist
In 2006, our journey began with a passion for creating the finest whiskeys in the world. We are fortunate to be nestled in the rolling hills of Historically Bold Danville, Kentucky, the birthplace of Kentucky, and also being exposed to the Kentucky Bourbon industry for generations while growing up.
With strong backgrounds in several sciences and more than 20 years of industry experience, we started our Bourbon path with a premium selection of seed grade corn, wheat and rye varietals grown just a few miles from the distillery on Caverndale Farms. We also source rye from Walnut Grove Farms in Adairville, Ky. Our malted barley, grown in the northern states, arrives at the distillery from a grain elevator in Louisville. Our water comes from Kentucky’s natural limestone springs and we use our own yeast strains we have collected. We primarily produce two varieties of Bourbon Whiskey and a Rye Whiskey, all of which are made with 100 percent KY Proud®-sourced ingredients.
A noticeable distinction in our process and the flavor of our whiskeys comes from our proprietary Infusion Mashing Process, a process where we use the exact amount of heat to gelatinize starches without derogation of the quality of the grains. We find this process yields to a much softer and flavorful distillate. Another important distinction is that our steam is chemical-free because we use a clean steam boiler, the first Kentucky Bourbon distillery to do so. With this process, we avoid using boiler chemicals or off flavors. Only pure steam goes into to our cooker and into our beer column.
Another unique distinction our whiskeys have is that we make a Sweet Mash instead of the Sour Mash technique. Again, we were the first of Kentucky’s distillers to embrace the sweet mash process as our sole mashing technique. By not acidifying the mash, we are able to bring more flavors forward from the grains with a softer finish, just as in preparing a fine meal.
All of our whiskeys are distilled, aged and bottled here at Wilderness Trail Distillery in a rich traditional Kentucky environment. You can trust what you are enjoying with our name on the bottle. Our whiskeys are double-distilled in keeping with Kentucky tradition and we have several stills. Our 250 gallon Vendome Pot Hybrid Still produced the very first Bourbons we made. We use that still now primarily to distill our Harvest Rum and to finish our third distillation of our Blue Heron Vodka. Since 2016 all of our whiskeys have been distilled through a Vendome 40 foot tall, 18-inch beer column still and then double distilled continuously through our 250 gallon copper doubler. We just received a new 40 foot tall, 36-inch beer still and 500 gallon doubler to increase our production output.
We proof our whiskeys down with limestone-filtered spring water to enter the Independent Stave Company 53-gallon toasted and #4 charred barrels at 110 proof for our Bourbons and 100 proof for our Rye Whiskeys. Another more notable distinction of Wilderness Trail is that we have aging Rickhouses onsite and we have chosen to mature our Bourbons to a minimal of four years (plus) old before releasing any Bourbon. Our goal is to age our whiskeys an average age of 6-8 years.
Our continuous column copper still allows us to produce 2 barrels of Bourbon an hour. It is 40 feet tall and 18 inches in diameter. We produce 12 to 13 barrels every shift.
The column still allows us to distill to 110 proof. Since we need to reach 125 proof for it to become Bourbon, our mash then enters our copper doubler. It leaves the copper doubler at 137 proof and goes to the barreling room.
17 Distillations Points
Each time alcohol is removed from a fermented substance and recaptured as purified alcohol it goes from a liquid state to a vapor state and back to a liquid state…that is a single distillation. It also will go from a low proof alcohol in the fermented substance to a high proof alcohol once distilled. Our Vodka vapors will do this each time over 16 plates during each distillation pass. Each “distillation plate” increases the proof required to reach 190 proof required for Vodka, while each “distillation pass” purifies the alcohol by removing part of the unwanted volatiles in the stillage, due to changing boiling points and other unwanted compounds as it comes into contact with all of the copper surfaces. So to reach a higher proof, a lot of “distillation points” are required and “multiple-distillation passes” are required to create a smooth tasting spirit.