A New Bourbon Worth Checking Out


April 9, 2018

When I walked into the Wilderness Trail Distillery a couple years ago, I noticed something that doesn’t normally catch my eye–the place was spotless. There wasn’t a piece of trash, cigarette butt or even a random lug nut sitting around. While most distilleries are clean, this was so immaculate you’d eat off the floor.

Come to find out, that was part of the design.

At the Wilderness Trail Distillery, Dr. Pat Heist uses the sweet mash fermentation technique vs. sour mash, the most common method in which backset is added to the new mash to avoid bacterial infestation and speed up fermentation.

Twenty years ago, a new distillery wouldn’t dare attempt a sweet mash-only facility, as the contamination risk was just too high and an inconsistent whiskey surely awaited. But Wilderness Trail’s state-of-the-art facility uses propriety and ultra-sanitary methods to keep bacteria and unwanted yeasts from invading the sweet mash.

In 2017, I tasted Wilderness Trail’s wheated bourbon, rye-based bourbon and rye whiskey straight from the barrel, and immediately noticed the lack of grain in the young whiskeys. Rather, the 3- and 4-year-old whiskeys offered rich notes and complexity like 6-year-old whiskey, indicating there may be something to sweet mash dedication. I wrote this in my notes: “I cannot wait for this to be released.”

Well, that time is now.

Wilderness Trail set the release for April 28 at its second annual Taste of Danville, where they will enjoy the Bottled in Bond, Single Barrel Kentucky Straight wheated Bourbon, SRP $48. (It officially launched at Jack Rose last week.)

The company said the spring release is the first of three limited releases this year, as the majority of the barrels continue to age toward 6 years before regular releases are available. Limited first edition box sets of the first release have been reserved by Family Reserve members who signed up when the distillery began barreling bourbon over four years ago, they said. Visit the distillery’s website for more release details.

“We are excited to share our first mature Bourbons. …  It is a major milestone for us toward our journey of aging to six to eight years,” says Shane Baker, who is the Danville distillery’s co-owner with Pat Heist, in the press release.

I’m very excited to see this whiskey.