Wilderness Trail Distillery & Rickhouse


By Co-Founders Shane Baker and Pat Heist

In the late ‘90s, we were in a rock band together and quickly realized we needed to chase another dream. 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. In fact, Shane’s family has been distilling in Kentucky since the 1940s when his grandmother, Doris Ballard, met his grandfather, Hubert Ballard, at the Kentucky River Distillery when they were 14 and 16 years old. Doris Ballard went on to retire from Stitzel-Weller after a more than 50 year career in the industry. This type of family history provides a lot of our influences today, including some special yeast strains.


Our high in small grain Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskeys are offered as a Single Barrel – Bottled in Bond. Two special releases in one bottle! The Single Barrel selection offers nuances only premium cooper select barrels can create from their toasting and using 18-month-old air-dried staves. After all, the barrels impart a large part of the flavor.

In addition, the Bottled in Bond gives you assurance the Bourbon was properly distilled, aged between 5-6 years and bottled by us under the supervision of the U.S. Government at 100 proof.

What is the mashbill?

Our Bottled in Bond release mash bill is 64 percent corn, 24 percent wheat and 12 percent malted barley using our yeast strains. This is one of the highest ratios of wheat used in a Bourbon made in Kentucky. We entered the cooper select, toasted and #4 char barrel at 110 proof after coming off the still around 137 proof. We then age our Bourbon in our two -story Rickhouse A, moving floors each year of maturation.


Our Rye small grain Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskeys are offered as a Small Batch, up to 12 barrels per batch, which was the result of one fermenter. The goal of the Small Batch is to capture the total essence of more complex notes from multiple barrels from distillate of the same fermenter. We’ve decided to release the Small Batch Bourbon as a Bottled in Bond so fans of our Wheated Single Barrel Bourbon can do a side-by-side comparison.

What is the mashbill?

Our Small Batch release mash bill is 64 percent corn, 24 percent rye and 12 percent malted barley using our yeast strains. We entered the cooper select, toasted and #4 char barrel at 110 proof after coming off the still around 137 proof. Aged in both our Rickhouse A at a mid- to upper-floor and in our Rickhouse B in the center of the warehouse.


Cask Strength Releases

Our Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskeys are offered as a Cask Strength release. Once our traditional sweet mash process is distilled in our column stills we enter the barrel at the lowest entry proof we know of in Kentucky. We barrel at 100 proof and 105 proof to highlight the balance of the distillate and alternate solubility expression we get from the barrel at a lower proof. We also barreled at a gradient of proofs between 100 and 120 proof for our first few years before settling into 100 and 105 proof. This is the reason you will find releases of our cask strength Rye varying in proof.

Our three-grain recipe is 56 percent rye, 33 percent corn and 11 percent malted barley. Our rye mash bill is one we created for a broader balance of flavor to offset the typical high ryes commonly found. We use Kentucky-grown Heritage rye from our local KY Proud farm. We enter the new, air-dried #4 char, 53-gallon barrels at 100 proof and 105 proof for our Rye Whiskey and age until maturity in our barrelhouse. We age our Rye Whiskeys on the upper floors of our rickhouses for a minimum of 4 years with regular expressions expected to be between 6 and 8 years of age.

Podcast: This Is My Bourbon Podcast, Episode 116 This is fresh bourbon+ Wilderness trail Distillery, 2-11-2020

-They started with Wheat
-They try to be very technical in every aspect
-After the 6 year mark they will start “playing” with the flavor profiles
-Cat is named “Cooper”
-Are now offering a Single Barrel products
-50K visitors last year counting all events, about 1/3 come to the visitors center
-Only been available for purchase for two years now
-On January 23, 2020 they got put on the official Bourbon Trail and not the Craft version, they have to pay to be on it and it is not cheep
-Last year they made 12 barrels a day production then in the last year they grew to 230 barrels a day.
-Distill for other clients and age for them as well
-2,500 barrels is their smallest rickhouse, they have 2 and are building a third
-11K, 22K, 50K barrels rick houses
-Co-Founders Shane Baker and Pat Heist, the story began around a rock brand, a mutual friend was a drummer, heavy metal band they were playing in.
-He is an Engineer and Pat is a microbiologist, they were both broke and raising kids
-they bootstrapped it in 2006 as a consulting company to anyone that made alcohol, they were very successful in that. Fixing problems and optimizing things.
-2011-12 they decided to make a distillery

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