Wilderness Trail Distillery (#2 of 19) features more than just bourbon. You should get a chance to enjoy a white dog, rye and rum as well. This distillery is growing quickly. You'll see their expanding storage facilities and they will be moving from the old house to a new visitor's center.

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ABOUT THE WILDERNESS TRAIL DISTILLERY TOUR

  • Location: Danville, KY
  • Impression: Discover the technical and scientific side of distilling.
  • Website: Tour Information (Requires Age Verification)
  • Cost: I paid $7 for the tour. Please check hours, they close for lunch and are closed on Sunday and Monday as of this writing.
  • Samples: 4 Selections including Wilderness Trail Straight Kentucky Bourbon, Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey, Blue Heron Vodka, and Harvest Rum.
  • Perks: I received a shot glass with a Wilderness Trail logo on it.
  • My Wilderness Trail Instagram Photos 

Note: Someone pointed out I say "brewery" instead of "distillery." My apologies as this was my first distillery tour and I breweries had been ingrained in me over the years. That was a flub. It really is just a distillery. 

Takeaways

  • Closed for lunch, tour on Saturday at 1 PM was light, but next tour at 2 PM filled up.
  • Evolving company, so this tour may be very different over the next couple of years, with a new visitor's center and gift shop coming soon.
  • More than just bourbon, they have rum and white spirits. 
  • They supply a lot of spirits to other startups. 
  • Tasting white dog (bourbon before aging) really shows you what the barrel does to the taste of bourbon. White dog, if sold can be good as a mixer.
  • Our guide, mentioned that copper stills are used to get the sulfites out of the water. He also said, another advantage is they look better than stainless steel. Sulfites are what cause headaches in wine...so no headaches with properly distilled bourbon.
  • Bourbon barrels are often sent over to Scotland for scotch or to other places for infusion in beers and other spirits. I asked what the Scots used before that (ie, before the late 1700's when bourbon was first created), other than sherry barrels, but he wasn't sure. Guess I'll have to head to Scotland!
  • Observation: Many tours allow the tour guides to share in the tasting. This was the only one where I saw the tour guide skip the Kentucky chew and just toss one back. Hmmm.
  • Could Improve: They gave us our spirits in small plastic communion cups. It was very hard to get a nose and taste at the same time which I found more and more critical at each distillery I visited. The spirits were also very high proof which had me experiencing more burn than product. 
  • Best part of tour: Getting to try a 136 proof rye, fresh from the process. The Rye is not yet available apparently but that sample was good, even at the high proof.

kentucky wilderness trail barrels

Side Tracked: What Makes a Whiskey a Bourbon?

Okay, so I'm doing a bourbon tour. What the heck makes a whiskey a bourbon? On May 4th, 1964, to protect an genuinely American created product, the United States government codified the rules of naming something a bourbon whiskey. All items with the name "bourbon" must:

  • have a grain mixture that includes at least 51% corn,
  • it cannot be distilled to more than 160 proof (many distillers aim below this to keep flavor in the batch),
  • it can only be aged in new, charred oak barrels (ie, distillers who say other's make bourbon in used barrels might want to check their facts),
  • it's be any higher than 125 proof when put in the barrel for aging,
  • and only whiskey produced in the U.S. can be legally be called bourbon. Crown Royal recently tried scoot around this requirement
  • Also, bourbon aged for less than four years must be labeled with it's age,
  • and any age statement requires that the youngest whiskey in the bottle is at least that age.
  • And to accomplish their goal of Americanizing whiskey, the government states that only whiskey produced in the United States can be called bourbon.

What about Straight Bourbon Whiskey?
Yes, there are additional rules to get this more detailed label:

  • It has to have aged at least two years to be called Straight Bourbon.
  • It also cannot have any coloring or flavoring added to it unless it says "blended."
  • If you see "Kentucky" Straight Bourbon Whiskey, then it had to have spent it's whole life in the state of Kentucky from inception to bottling.

So as they say, all bourbons are whiskey's but not all whiskey's are bourbons. I was fascinated to find out, when I got home, that a local distiller was claiming to have the first 5-grain bourbon (they use rice, which is a famous cheap filler used by Anheiser-Busch's Budweiser. I was lead to believe that you couldn't have more than 3 grains to call something bourbon, however, that is apparenly more of a gentleman's agreement (like we used to have with Presidents only serving 2 terms before Roosevelt), but I don't see anything requiring that the legal definition legal definition...

Next up, Town Branch Distillery in Lexington, KY.

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