Chili Cook Off Winners Announced

Wilderness Trail’s Charity Chili Cook-Off drew a great crowd of chili lovers.

Of 22 teams, our judges rose to the challenge of choosing the top three from the many delicious entries. The 600 people attending the event voted for their favorite for People’s Choice. From left to right, are winners are: People’s Choice to Kevin and Kenda Douglas of Douglas Catering; second place to Andrew Monroe and his daughter, Calla Monroe of Smokin’ Mo Diesel; tie for third between Julie Sell and Cohen Catron of G’s Chili and Kamikaze Kookers (Terry Gooch, Donna Burdette and Darlene Warner); and first place to Tina Morris of Just Chili’n. Side note, this was Tina’s third year to enter and she is Wilderness Trail’s private barrel program coordinator. Jessica Kendrick, president of the Danville Kiwanis, is next to Tina.

Julie Sell also was entering for the third time. She said she competes because she enjoys socializing and meeting people.

“I don’t care if I win or lose. I just have the best time ever.”

Of course, the real winners are the local youth and senior citizens, who will receive gifts during the holidays. The Kiwanis purchase clothes, shoes and a few toys for about 35 children and a gift card and small gifts for about 15 seniors. They help with school supplies and a variety of other needs for children during the year. With the help of the Chili Cook-Off’s sponsors, the chili cooks and vendors, the Kiwanis can continue spreading some much-needed joy during the holiday season and throughout the year.

Our great sponsors are:

Caldwell Stone
P.E. Labellers
The Advocate-Messenger newspaper
Vendome Copper & Brass Works

Doss & Horky
Kentucky Cooperage, our barrel providers through Independent Stave Co.
Sellers Manufacturing

Central Kentucky Tours
Community Trust Bank
Corning, Inc.
Devine Creations
Farmers National Bank
Innovative Handling Systems
Local Termite & Pest Control
PNC Bank
Turner Labels
Whitaker Bank

Buzick Construction
Carol's Bridal, owned by Kiwanis member Carol Senn
InterCounty Energy Cooperative
Keystone Industrial
The Junction, event and sports venue
Walnut Springs Farms, which is owned by Kiwanis member Kathy Miles

Date: September 23, 2023 — September 23, 2023

8-Year Wheated Bourbon Release Set

Bottle sales begin 9 am Aug. 23 at distillery gift shop

For all Wilderness Trail fans, the Aug. 23 gift shop release of our 8-year wheated Bourbon is a highly anticipated moment. For those of you who have known us for years, this release rates with our very first release of our flagship wheated Bourbon in April 2018. That's been a minute!

But good things come to those who wait, and we know you wheated Bourbon fans will love the sweet nose on this release and taste of stone fruit, chocolate and coffee.

The Aug. 23 release is a bottled in bond small batch. Wilderness Trail's small batch is a true small batch of 18 barrels. Our wheated bourbon mashbill is the same: 64% corn, 24% wheat and 12% barley.

The Bourbon used in the blend was distilled in our pot still before the distillery moved to 4095 Lebanon Road and started using a column still. 

Sales begin at 9 a.m. Aug. 23 with the Wilderness Trail 8 year Wheated Bourbon available at the Wilderness Trail Visitor Center, hours are 9am-5pm Tuesday through Saturday.  The sell price is $88 (plus tax).

Wilderness Trail 8 year Wheated Bourbon also will be available in select retailers in Kentucky Aug. 28.

Here are our tasting notes, but we encourage you to obtain a bottle and make your own! 

Nose: nectarines, sweet almond, honeysuckle, hazelnut and chocolate (Nutella) and tobacco.

Taste: complex and rich with stone fruit, chocolate, coffee with a dusting of cinnamon balanced with rich oak undertones.

Finish: long and evolves from toasted oak to sweet, orchard fruit into tobacco.

What reviewers are saying:

Jake Kratenberg with The Bourbon Flight:

The star of the show is the finish. Smooth, as all get out and hardly any burn. The burn you do receive is wanted, as it warms your heart. Touches of honey leak down your throat, with cinnamon and pepper following behind.

Fred Minnick on Instagram:

Seriously, this WT is the best thing I have tasted from them and it will no doubt be a contender in my Top 100. 

Date: August 23, 2023 — August 23, 2023


Wilderness Trail in the running for best bourbon and best tour

Wilderness Trail appreciates your support in Kentucky Living's Best of Kentucky contest.

We are in the top three in the categories of Best Bourbon and Best Tour. The results will be announced Aug. 16.

Date: May 1, 2023 — May 31, 2023


Bringing you another delicious bottled in bond product

Our 7-year Rye Whiskey is available in the gift shop. The cost is $75 a bottle. 

Soon, a limited quantity will be selling in Kentucky stores. 

The bottled in bond rye whiskey features Kentucky-grown heritage rye, which lends more herbal and floral notes.

Tasting notes: Expect maple wood sugars, dried red fruit, warm cinnamon, toasted oak and Madagascar vanilla.

Date: March 31, 2023 — March 31, 2023


Campari Group acquires an initial 70% stake

Campari Group, based in Milan, Italy, has reached an agreement to purchase an initial 70% interest in Wilderness Trail Distillery, and in 2031 the remaining 30% interest, of the outstanding capital of Wilderness Trail Distillery, LLC (the ‘Target’). The initial investment is $420,000 million based on the distillery value of $600,000 million.

Wilderness Trail Distillery, located in Danville, Kentucky, USA, was launched in 2012 as a ‘premium craft distillery’ with a clear focus on making the highest quality bourbon and rye whiskey. Leveraging the advanced and versatile operational infrastructure, the founders launched in 2018 two premium proprietary Wilderness Trail expressions: Wilderness Trail Bourbon and Wilderness Trail Rye Whiskey. The portfolio now includes a high-end 6-year and 8-year bourbon line for a deeper and mature flavor. 

The founders and current shareholders, Shane Baker and Dr. Pat Heist, are fermentation experts with more than 20 years’ experience in the production of whiskey, consistently recognized as pioneers in the engineering, research and development, fermentation and distilling activities. The distillery’s proprietary infusion mashing process and sweet mash technique have a highly flexible output driven by the multiple mash bills and yeast strains, crafting bourbons and rye whiskeys with distinctive flavors.

Bob Kunze-Concewitz, Chief Executive Officer Campari Group, says, "We are very excited to take a controlling interest in world-class Wilderness Trail Distillery. By adding the fast-growing super premium Wilderness Trail brand we further expand and premiumize our bourbon offering, priming it to become Campari Group’s second major leg after the aperitif portfolio. Moreover, we accelerate our premiumization journey, further enriching our rare portfolio, the division aimed to unlock and accelerate the growth potential of a select range of high-end individual expressions in our core premium spirits markets. In addition, we have the opportunity to significantly expand our production capacity and aging inventory to satisfy the future growth of our premium bourbons, such as the high potential Whiskey Barons range, currently capped due to capacity constraints. We are very excited to partner with such a strong team of industry pioneers and distilling experts allowing us to accelerate and significantly expand the innovation platform for our bourbon portfolio."

Baker and Dr. Heist say, "We are thrilled about our partnership with Campari Group. Premium bourbon and rye whiskies and state-of-the art production facilities coupled with worldwide distribution, first class marketing and expertise across multiple spirit categories provide the perfect foundation for the continued success of the Wilderness Trail brand and ensure it will be enjoyed around the world for years to come. This is a win-win situation for both parties and we are very proud of this partnership and what we can achieve together with our shared vision."

To download the entire press release, click here.

Date: October 31, 2022 — October 31, 2022


Distillery supports local humane society program

Wilderness Trail Distillery has long been a supporter of the Danville-Boyle County Humane Society. We are proud of the look for the agency's van used in the Community Cat Program. Wilderness Trail held a Fur Ball in November in honor of the agency's 50th anniversary. We have a special barrel pick that showcases the cats that live in the distillery's barn and who have been spay/neutered through the humane society's Community Cat Program. Barrel pick sales benefit the humane society.

The agency began in 1972 when Charlotte Bateman and a group of concerned citizens established the Danville-Boyle County Humane Society to care for homeless animals. Since then, the humane society has adapted to the community's changing needs and evolved with innovations in the animal welfare field, says director Kari Kuh.

The Community Cat Program has enjoyed much success since it began in 2019. When it began the program, DBCHS discontinued trapping, impounding, and euthanizing outdoor cats and started offering free spay/neuter surgery, using Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Return (TNVR). 

TNVR is the process by which cats are humanely trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and returned to their original location. Thanks to generous grants, veterinary partners, and engaged Boyle County residents, 3,200+ cats were sterilized at low or no cost to their caretakers in the last three years. 

It’s making a huge difference. In 2018, the shelter euthanized more than 500 cats due to overcrowding, illness, or lack of available homes. After DBCHS implemented its community cat program in 2019, fewer than 60 cats were euthanized in 2020 and 2021 combined.

Wilderness Trail Distillery has been a gracious sponsor of the Community Cat Program from the beginning, and a participant, too! Cooper, the beloved resident distillery cat, was being harassed by the outdoor cats in the area, and the Community Cat Program came to the rescue.

The humane society’s TNVR specialist humanely trapped and returned more than 10 felines to the distillery. Because the cats are sterilized and vaccinated, they do not reproduce, fight, or spread disease. Now the cats live happily, keeping pests at bay, and have become a part of daily life at Wilderness Trail.

Much has changed since 1972, but the community's incredible support has remained constant. 

Date: November 18, 2022 — November 18, 2022


Event raises $11,378 for Danville Kiwanis programs

Wow, 25 cooks brought their best chili to our Charity Chili Cook Off. They were all delicious, but someone had to win and this year's judges selected Boogie Knights, a downtown Danville bar and restaurant. The winners, from left, are People's Choice, Kevin and Kenda Douglas, Douglas Catering; Boogie Knights owners Justin Fletcher and Ashley Moore; third place, Patrick Barsotti, a candidate for Boyle County District Court judge; and second place, Randell Reynolds. Reynolds took first in 2019. 

Thanks to our generous sponsors and those who purchased tasting tickets and Barsotti's donation of his winnings, the event raised $11,378 for the Danville Kiwanis. The proceeds fund year-round projects such as back to school supplies and gifts of new clothing, coats, shoes, and small toys for children during the holidays. They also treat several local senior citizens with a luncheon and small gifts during the holidays. They plan to serve 35 children and 15 senior citizens. Individuals supported by the Kiwanis during this time are not served by any other groups. The Kiwanis also use the funds to aid other programs, such as CASA requesting financial support for stuffed bears for the children they serve. A local food bank also has seen a decline in the normal donations this time of year, therefore Kiwanis Club approved a larger-than-normal financial gift. The club provides financial support for a very active “Key Club at Boyle County High School. The Key Club is the high school service club that promotes healthy activities for local youth, book sales and trick or treat events were financially supported by the Kiwanis Club.

Wilderness Trail appreciates everyone who joined us. We try to make this a family-friendly event and we offered free facepainting, pumpkin decorating and a game to search for prizes in tubs of corn.
Earl Cooper offered horse and wagon rides and we had vendors from CBD, Etc., Bluegrass Cigars, Wonderfully Made Bakery and Queen Bee Monograms. The Boyle County Public Library Bookmobile gave out free books and information about programs. We all know firefighters make a mean chili and in addition to competing, they added some pizzazz by bringing out their fire truck. DJ Reece, Maurice Bell, provided the tunes. And the aforementioned Key Club provided help throughout the day.

Our panel of judges had a tough job of eating all that chili and figuring out which one was best. Thanks to judges sports analyst Larry Vaught; Norton Center for the Arts Director Steve Hoffman; Kentucky Sports Radio Commentator Max Duffy; Danville-Boyle County Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Kendall Clinton; and longtime radio personality Charlie Perry.

We would like to thank the following businesses for their generous support of the event.

Caldwell Stone
The Advocate-Messenger newspaper
Vendome Copper & Brass Works
WHIR and WRNZ Hometown Radio

Heidelberg, our KY distributors
Kentucky Cooperage, our barrel providers through Independent Stave Co.
PNC Bank
Sellers Manufacturing
Whitaker Bank

Bluegrass IT Services
Bob Allen Motors
Boyle County Judge-Executive Candidate Trille L. Bottom
Buzick Construction
Corning, Inc.
Devine Creations, which provides WTD's landscaping
Farmers National Bank
Local Termite & Pest Control
Stuart Powell Ford Lincoln Mazda

Boyle County Neighbors, Robert Cunningham, publisher
Carol's Bridal & Gift Boutique
Committe to Elect James "JH" Atkins for Mayor
Sara Henry for Boyle County Clerk
InterCounty Energy Cooperative
Keystone Industrial
McBrayer Legacy Spirits
Tye Financial Group
Walnut Springs Farms, which is owned by Kiwanis member Kathy Miles
Wilson-Reddy for State House


Date: September 24, 2022 — September 24, 2022


Our high-rye black label hits the sweet spot

Wilderness Trail has hit the sweet spot of having an eight-year Bourbon to release. We call it the sweet spot because this age is where the fruit, candy and nut flavors peak.

Our gift shop is sold out of the eight-year high-rye Bourbon but we hope you can still find the eight-year in Kentucky liquor stores.

Date: July 8, 2022 — July 8, 2022


A mix of threebarrel picks will sell in gift shop

You may  have heard the expression, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get," from the movie Forrest Gump. The same might be said of our Pick 3 option. 

The Pick 3, available in our gift shop, offers our guests a chance to sample the 2021 barrel picks. This three-pack of barrel proof bottles includes: 1 of the wheated Bourbon mashbill, 1 of the rye Bourbon mashbill, and 1 of the rye whiskey. There are some nice surprises in here from our specially curated barrel proof options. So, there's an element of surprise. But it's all delicious. Price is $186.

Date: January 28, 2022 — February 1, 2023


16 cooks vie for 2021 Charity Chili Cook Off winner

When the last spoonful was served, judges of the fourth Wilderness Trail Charity Chili Cook Off Sept. 25 declared Macaulay Minton's seafood-based chili the winner of this year's event.

Second place went to Mike Southerland and his team of son Joe Southerland and Robin Jones.  Andrew Monroe of Smokin' Mo Diesel in Georgetown captured third. People's Choice went to Ernest Gooch and his crew of granddaughter Shooter Gooch, and nieces Ann Richardson and Decarla Bell.

Thanks to Country Boy Brewery for quenching the thirst created by the hot chili. The Danville High School and Bate Middle School girls basketball teams also did their share of thirst quenching with soft drinks and water and offered hot dogs as an alternative to chili. Earl Cooper added to the festive atmosphere by offering horse and wagon rides. See event photos at our Facebook album.

Pat Heist, co-owner of Wilderness Trail Distillery, crooned the tunes for Zella May after the warmup show by Minus 3.

Proceeds from the event support the Danville Kiwanis Local Youth and Senior Citizens programs.  The Kiwanis receive the names of the children they help at the holidays from Salvation Army, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Wilderness Trace Child Development Center and Sunrise Children's Home. No other agency helps these children in this capacity. The winter warmth supplied from your generosity supports a program that began more than 90 years ago. Twenty years ago, the Boyle County Senior Citizens Center became recipients of the holiday project and other programs, too.

Of course, this event wouldn't be possible without the great support of community sponsors. We're still tallying the proceeds, but we had a great turnout and will let you know the end result.

Thanks to our awesome sponsors, cooks and tasters, the event raised $7,100 in 2019. 

Our sponsors are:


  • Truist
  • WPBK and WKYB


  • Heidelberg
  • Kentucky Cooperage
  • PNC Bank
  • Sellers Manufacturing
  • The Advocate-Messenger


  • Bluegrass I.T. Services
  • Buzick Construction
  • Community Trust Bank
  • Corning, Inc.
  • Farmers National Bank
  • Stuart Powell Ford Mazda


  • Boyle County Neighbors
  • Bruce Devine Roofing
  • Caverndale Farms
  • Devine Creations
  • Hayslett Mechanical
  • InterCounty Energy Cooperate
  • Keystone Industrial
  • McBrayer Legacy Spirits
  • Walnut Springs Farm

Click on the links below to download forms.

Date: September 25, 2021 — September 25, 2021


First-time award honors WTD owner for his efforts to help others combat Covid-19

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association announced that Shane Baker of Wilderness Trail Distillery and KDA Board Chairwoman Jessica Pendergrass of Heaven Hill Distillery are the recipients of a new award honoring industry leaders who personify the legendary group’s spirit of camaraderie and integrity.
The esteemed Esprit de Corps Award can be bestowed by the KDA Board Chair to individuals who have, “by demonstrable and honorable action,” gone above and beyond the call of duty to advance the mission of the KDA and Kentucky’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry, KDA President Eric Gregory said.
“Throughout our industry’s history, KDA members have risen to meet unforeseen challenges and this year was no different,” Gregory said. “The technical expertise of Shane Baker was instrumental in protecting Kentuckians against COVID-19 and the leadership of Jessica Pendergrass was vital in addressing deep-seated social issues.
“Their vision, dedication and unrelenting efforts have strengthened our venerable Association and our historic, homegrown industry. They symbolize our maxim that we are stronger by working together than standing apart. For that, we are proud to honor them with this new award and offer our utmost and truest thanks.”
Chairwoman Pendergrass conferred the inaugural award to Baker last week at the KDA’s 140th Annual Meeting of Members, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Baker, one of the founders of Wilderness Trail in Danville, received an engraved medal in recognition of his exceptional service.
The Board’s Resolution saluted Baker “for his technical education, assistance and collaborative efforts in the production and distribution of hand sanitizer in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and for his overall support, assistance and guidance to other members of the KDA throughout his tenure with the organization.
“Mr. Baker’s outstanding service and devotion to his community and to the cause helped our beloved Commonwealth contain the early spread of the virus and protected hundreds of doctors, first responders and emergency personnel through the donation of sanitizer and the assistance to KDA members in its manufacture
and coordination of resources,” the Resolution stated.
Baker said, “This is such a prestigious honor bestowed upon me by an organization I hold in the highest degree of respect, for not only the positive impacts made by our members within our local communities, but how time-honored traditions and values of our members have always strived to put others first. “When I learned of receiving this award, a floodgate of emotions released from everything 2020 had thrown at us and it left me speechless. No different than so many others during this time, my efforts were driven to help those in need without question and utilize our resources to assist everyone during an unprecedented time of need.
“Through teamwork and unwavering commitments from the Kentucky Distillers Association members, I am proud to have been able to assist others and humbled for being recognized for our efforts during this time.”

Wilderness Trail made more than 125,000 gallons of hand sanitizer and donated a third of it to medical personnel and first responders.

Pendergrass honored

Later in the meeting, as the Board commended Pendergrass for her outstanding performance as Chairwoman during the many unprecedented challenges of 2020, Vice Chairwoman Pauline Rooney surprised Pendergrass with the second-ever Esprit de Corps award.
“During her tenure in office, Chairwoman Pendergrass devoted countless hours of her time and a tremendous deal of energy and personal sacrifice in guiding the Association in the many difficult and unexpected matters presented during her term,” the Board’s Resolution stated.
“As Chairwoman Pendergrass has demonstrated true camaraderie, visionary leadership and immense devotion to the KDA and the industry in these trying times, the Board of Directors is honored to present her with the KDA Esprit de Corps Award for her overall support, assistance and guidance to the members of the KDA.”
Pendergrass, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for Heaven Hill Distilleries, is only the third woman to chair the KDA’s Board of Directors. Rooney, who is Vice President of Distillation and Maturation for Diageo North America, was second in 2015.
The first was Andrea Wilson, who is now Executive Vice President and General Manager of Michter’s Distillery, in 2009. Pendergrass also received an engraved medal amid cheers of thanks from KDA members for her tireless service and devotion during these trying times.
“This has been a challenging year for all of us, but 2020 has also been a year of hope and possibility,” Pendergrass said. “I am truly honored to be recognized by my colleagues in the distilling industry and look forward to continuing our work in 2021 to create lasting, meaningful change as we continue to expand inclusion
in our industry to make it welcoming for everyone.”

Date: November 19, 2020 — November 19, 2020


Newest member of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail reaches top level with KDA

Wilderness Trail Distillery has achieved the rank of Heritage member with the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. This is the highest level in the non-profit group that unites and leads the state’s signature Bourbon and spirits industry.  

To qualify as a Heritage member, distilleries must have at least 25,000 barrels of distilled spirits aging in Kentucky warehouses.

Wilderness Trail actually reached this milestone in 2019 and had delayed the election process to move up to Heritage member for the distillery to prepare for the increase in tourism and footprint across the United States. Wilderness Trail produces up to 215 barrels per day and the majority of those production barrels remain onsite for aging. Currently Wilderness Trail has more than 100,000 barrels storage capacity and is building additional rickhouses on the property to the south of the main distillery.  Wilderness Trail has remained in full production this year.

In addition to Wilderness Trail, other new Heritage members are Rabbit Hole Distillery in Louisville and Willett Distillery in Bardstown. 

As Heritage members, these distilleries will have an expanded leadership role in the management of the association and the future of the iconic industry.  

Wilderness Trail launched after years of advising other distilleries

After years of working with distilleries around the world to provide advice and fermentation products through their company Ferm Solutions, founders Shane Baker and Pat Heist launched Wilderness Trail Distillery in 2012 with a focus on making high quality Bourbon, rye, vodka and Bourbon barrel-aged rum. 

Blending traditional production methods with scientific advancements and new technology, Wilderness Trail has grown from a small, craft facility to one of the most distinguished distilleries and consulting firms in the Commonwealth.

Wilderness Trail joined the KDA in 2013 and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour this year. 

“It is a great honor to advance in membership to a Heritage Member alongside the historic distilleries that have built Kentucky Bourbon as our signature industry,” Baker said. “This is a remarkable milestone for our Wilderness Trail family to achieve and embrace as we continue to grow our brands around the world and proudly promote Kentucky Bourbon.”

Baker says achieving Heritage level solidifies Wilderness Trail's brand.

"We are in 32 states with our Bourbons and whiskeys and we have visitors coming here from all over the world. It exemplifies the hard work and time spent on building a successful operation and turning that into a brand. Our staff is key to maintaining that quality expectation, sharing our story here in Danville, and connecting ambassadors from all over with our community. It is more than pride for our team to achieve this status and we are elated to have this opportunity."

The KDA also announced that New Riff Distillery has met the inventory requirements to advance to “Proof” level membership, the second-highest tier. “Proof” level membership is reserved for established licensed distilleries that maintain an inventory between 10,000 and 25,000 barrels of distilled spirits. 

“This year we are recognizing the growth of four KDA members, a tremendous accomplishment that is rightfully celebrated,” KDA President Eric Gregory said. “In addition to their individual achievements, all four companies actively work for the greater good of the industry and will now expand that leadership role.

“We raise a glass to toast their success and advancement within the KDA ranks and our iconic industry.”

The KDA now has 14 Heritage members, including Bardstown Bourbon Company, Beam Suntory (Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark), Brown-Forman, Diageo North America, Four Roses, Green River Distilling Co., Heaven Hill Brands, Louisville Distilling Company, Lux Row, Michter’s and Wild Turkey.

Wilderness Trail future includes more growth across the United States and in four other countries.

"We plan to release to many more states and countries over the next few years.  The distillery already is well beyond the levels needed to maintain Heritage status in terms of inventory as well as offering a mature Kentucky Bourbon for the world to fall in love with."

Honors presented virtually

Jessica Pendergrass, chairwoman of KDA’s Board of Directors and General Counsel at Heaven Hill Brands, joined Gregory in virtually presenting the companies with commemorative barrel heads at the KDA’s 140th Annual Meeting of Members held online last week due to COVID. 

“It has been a groundbreaking year for KDA and that is reflected in the strength of the members we have moving into higher tiers of representation,” Pendergrass said. “We had another record-setting production year and the distilling industry in Kentucky continues to flourish and expand. 

Pendergrass also remarked on the expanding demographics of the KDA Board with the addition of Willett President Britt Kulsveen and Iranian-born Rabbit Hole Distillery Founder Kaveh Zamanian. “In particular, we welcome our new Heritage members who will bring additional voices to the table and expand the diversity of leadership on the KDA Board,” she said.

Rabbit Hole's story

Founded in 2012 by CEO Kaveh Zamanian, the innovative Rabbit Hole Distillery campus opened in 2018 in the Nulu district of downtown Louisville. The full-scale production facility features a dynamic visitor experience with its open floorplan design and sweeping views of downtown Louisville.

Rabbit Hole joined the KDA in 2018 as a “Craft” member and quickly expanded their production to rise through the membership ranks. The modern, urban distillery offers a variety of Bourbon experiences and joined the  Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour in 2019. 

“It is a privilege to be recognized as a Heritage member of the KDA and an honor to join the ranks of such an esteemed group of Kentucky distillers,” Zamanian said. “It has been an exciting, meteoric rise and the ride of our life.”

Willett's background

Located just on the outskirts of Bardstown, the Willett Distilling Company was built on some of the highest ground in Nelson County, offering one of the most scenic views among Kentucky distilleries and ensuring that a fresh breeze would aid in the maturation of their whiskey. 

Even G. Kulsveen, a native of Norway and son-in-law of Thompson Willett, purchased the property in 1984. He formed Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd., and began restoring the distillery to its original glory. Years later, Kulsveen’s daughter, Britt, and son, Drew, took over operations under Even’s shrewd guidance. 

The independent, family-owned distillery recently opened The Bar at Willett, an onsite restaurant and bar specializing in elegant small plates and rare and vintage spirits pours, allowing guests to experience the Willett family hospitality first hand.

Willett joined the KDA in 2012 and was one of the founding members of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® later that year. 

Willett President Britt Kulsveen said she remembers with fondness hearing stories of her grandfather making trips to Washington D.C. with the KDA to advocate for the future of her family business. 

“It humbles me with immeasurable pride to continue the traditions of our family and our extended Bourbon family as we seek to grow and progress collaboratively,” Kulsveen said.

New Riff overlooks Ohio River

New Riff, located near downtown Cincinnati across the Ohio River in Newport, is the creation of Ken Lewis, former president of the Wine and Spirits Guild of America and former owner of The Party Source, one of the country’s largest and most prominent retail package stores. 

New Riff, located at 24 Distillery Way, offers free on-site tours and educational programs, as well as an event center and rooftop garden for meetings and private gatherings. A main architectural attraction is the gleaming all-copper, 60-foot column still encased in glass. 

New Riff joined the KDA in 2014. The distillery joins Alltech’s Town Branch Distillery in Lexington as the KDA’s two Proof level members. 

“Kentucky Bourbon is the ‘gold standard’ of American whiskey, sought after around the world,” said New Riff Founder and CEO Ken Lewis. “The KDA is also the ‘gold standard’ of associations, working with and protecting Kentucky distilleries large and small.

“I have always been impressed by the forward-thinking staff and the non-competitive mentoring of the more established and larger distilleries to young distilleries who are now growing up and joining their ranks in making world-class whiskey that has put Kentucky on the world map – not just for great whiskey but for the tourism industry as well.”

Founded in 1880, the KDA is the state’s voice for Bourbon and spirits issues. Its diverse membership produces the overwhelming majority of the world’s Bourbon, from legendary, global brands to emerging micro distilleries that are building the next generation of the timeless craft.

Kentucky Bourbon is one of the Commonwealth’s most historic and treasured industries, a booming $8.6 billion economic engine that generates more than 20,100 jobs with an annual payroll topping $1 billion million each year.

In addition, the industry is in the middle of a $2.3 billion building boom, from innovative new tourism centers to expanded production facilities, all to meet the growing global thirst for Kentucky Bourbon.

There are now nearly 10 million barrels of Bourbon and other spirits aging in Kentucky warehouses, the highest number in the modern era of American Whiskey. Of that, 9.3 million are just Bourbon, the first time since 1967 that the number of Bourbon barrels topped nine million.

Bourbon production has skyrocketed more than 360 percent since the turn of the century, with Kentucky distillers filling 2.1 million barrels in 2019, the second year in a row that Kentucky distillers have filled two million barrels, the first time that’s happened in the modern era. 

Attendance at the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® distilleries has skyrocketed more than 300 percent in the last 10 years. Total attendance last year was nearly 2 million, the highest number since KDA founded the KBT® tour in 1999. 

Visit and to learn more. 

“We welcome Rabbit Hole Distillery, Wilderness Trail, Willett, and New Riff to our leadership ranks,” Gregory said. “We look forward to their continued guidance as we continue to responsibly grow and strengthen the Commonwealth’s historic, homegrown Bourbon and distilled spirits industry.”


Date: November 17, 2020 — November 17, 2020


Distillery owners win in East Central Region

We say that Wilderness Trail Distillery co-owners Shane Baker and Pat Heist have a pioneering spirit. Now they have been recognized for the innovative endeavors.

Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) announced that Shane Baker and Patrick Heist of Wilderness Trail Distillery were named as Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2020 East Central Award winners. The Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards program is one of the preeminent competitive awards for entrepreneurs and leaders of high-growth companies. The award recognizes those entrepreneurial leaders who are excelling in overcoming adversity; financial performance; societal impact and commitment to building a values-based company; innovation; and talent management. Baker and Heist were selected by an independent panel of judges. The award was announced through the program’s first-ever virtual awards celebration, hosted by Deborah Norville, anchor of Inside Edition, on October 7, 2020.  

Baker and Heist started Wilderness Trail Distillery in 2012. It followed their first company, Ferm Solutions, which they started in 2006. Ferm Solutions offers analytical laboratory services and sells yeast and other products used by distillers and brewers.

Since 1986, EY US has honored entrepreneurs whose ingenuity, spirit of innovation and tenacity have driven their companies’ success, transformed their industries and made a positive impact on their communities. Baker and Heist will go on to become a lifetime member of the esteemed multi-industry community of award winners, with exclusive, ongoing access to the experience, insight and wisdom of fellow alumni and other ecosystem members in over 60 countries — all supported by vast EY resources.

The Entrepreneur Of The Year program has honored the inspirational leadership of entrepreneurs such as:

  • Bryan Salesky of Argo AI, LLC
  • Molly North of Al. Neyer
  • Hamdi Ulukaya of Chobani
  • Mark Evans of Confluence
  • Dale Wollschleger of ExactCare Pharmacy
  • James Park of Fitbit
  • Daymond John of Fubu 
  • Kendra Scott of Kendra Scott LLC
  • Frank Alderman of MedExpress Urgent Care
  • Shelly Ibach of Sleep Number Corporation
  • Jodi Berg of Vitamix

“We are very honored to share this prestigious award nomination with so many great entrepreneurs and businesses that have been built from the unwavering entrepreneurial spirit. To be recognized as winners in the extremely competitive Ernst and Young competition is without a doubt another major milestone our team has accomplished,” says Baker.

Wilderness Trail Distillery, LLC, a Kentucky producer of fine Bourbon, Rye Whiskeys and other spirits located in Danville, Ky., is a proud member of the famed Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Wilderness Trail Bourbons and whiskeys are highly rated and are among the top 10 American whiskeys on the market found in 28 states and within parts of the EU and UK.

Date: October 8, 2020 — October 8, 2020


Look for the silver label

Wilderness Trail Distillery fans who have been enjoying side-by-side comparisons of its yellow label wheated Bourbon and its black label small batch rye Bourbon may now take their analogies to the next level. Look for the silver label with a "6" on the neck tag to indicate that it's Wilderness Trail 6-year wheated Bourbon or 6-year rye Bourbon. Our Visitors Center is one place to find the bottled in bond goodness of the 6-year small batch rye Bourbon. However, the Visitors Center has sold out of the 6-year wheated Bourbon. Bottles are $69.

The other releases by the Danville distillery, owned by Shane Baker and Dr. Pat Heist, have been four- and five-year-old, bottled in bond Bourbons and a cask strength rye whiskey of similar age expressions.

Everyone wants to know a little bit about how the 6-year-old tastes. Well, your tasting notes would be different from your friend's and so forth. Let's just say that the extra two years in the barrel has elevated an already remarkable Bourbon to an even higher level.

Date: July 21, 2020 — July 21, 2020


Annual blood drive held

Employees kept the Kentucky Blood Center Mobile unit busy during our annual blood drive. The staff kept donations coming for the three-hour blood drive. Due to the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, the bus is limited how many donors they can service at one time. Employees from Wilderness Trail and Ferm Solutions donated. We look forward to this way to help the community each year.

Date: May 5, 2020 — May 5, 2020


Pets featured on barrel pick labels adopted

We have some good news to share. Three of the four local humane society pets featured on the labels for a barrel pick have been adopted.

We still have bottles from a delicious barrel pick of 114 proof wheated bourbon (We can ship in Kentucky!) and sales benefit the Danville-Boyle County Humane Society.
Furthermore, adoptions are up at Danville-Boyle County Humane Society. Read more online. 

“We emptied our adoption floor last weekend and hope to do the same again! It's been absolutely amazing to see these pets go to good, loving homes and see the happy updates,” says Fizzy Ramsey, director of the humane society board.
Tucker is the only one who remains of the pets featured on the barrel pick labels. Ramsey describes Tucker, a 2 ½ year old pit bull mix, as “the most special of the pets featured.” She explains that he came to the shelter as a stray and was extremely fearful of other dogs.
“Rather than cowering he responded with aggression. That all changed with dog playgroups and he soon thrived in the play yard.”

Learning from foster care

While Tucker waits for a permanent home, he is staying with Saturday Adoption Specialist Kari Kuh. Kuh says he is adjusting to his new environment in positive ways.

“Tucker was a bit timid and shy when he came home with us in mid-March. He spent the first few days anxiously following the humans around and learning the basics about the doggie door while cautiously interacting with our resident dogs and keeping his distance from our cats. 
“It took about 10 days for him to stop pacing and start relaxing into our routine. A couple of weeks into his stay he began to engage in play with our dogs, and now entering our sixth week together he is best buddies with Trixie, the 75-pound, 9-year-old hound, and Buckaroo, the 8-year-old tripod treeing feist who weighs less than 15 pounds. Tucker keeps them hopping. He wants to play. ALL. THE. TIME! 
‘”Tucker has also learned how to interact with our cats. He desperately wants to hang out with them but won't chase or hurt them. In fact, he regularly sleeps in the human bed with one of the resident cats!”
Tucker's best life would be with an active couple or family with older kids that can give him plenty of exercise, playtime, and more basic training. He would prefer to have another dog to play with. His new family should also know he is still somewhat anxious. Loud noises and sudden movements can scare him.
If you're looking for a guard dog, move on. Tucker isn't much of a barking guy, you're more likely to hear him make silly grumbling sounds during play or snoring once he's finally tuckered out!

Tucker has been using the doggie door and going outside to potty consistently for four weeks. He knows "sit" and "lay down/down" but needs leash work and reminders not to chew on hands and blankets. He responds well to redirection and really wants to please. 
Tucker is sweet, enthusiastic, and loveable-we will miss him a bunch. With regular exercise, consistent training, and plenty of food and treats, this guy will make an excellent companion.

If interested in adoption, please contact the humane society at 859-238-1117. They now have a few more animals for adoption. They are open to the public 1-4 p.m. during the week with a limit of two people at a time.

Date: April 30, 2020 — May 31, 2020


40,000 gallons produced to meet community needs

Wilderness Trail Distillery is more well known for its whiskey, but to support those on the front lines during the battle against the spread of Coronavirus it supplied healthcare providers and others with hand sanitizer. The distillery is not currently producing hand sanitizer, but has 4 ounce bottles for sale in its Visitors Center.

Other distillers also contributed to the effort. Read a Forbes article submitted by Fred Minnick about the efforts of Kentucky distilleries, featuring Wilderness Trail here

To watch a video of Wilderness Trail making and distributing to local healthcare workers and first responders, click here.

The photo above shows our first shipment to the Boyle County Health Department on March 21. The top photo shows, Shane Baker, Wilderness Trail owner, right, with Boyle County Health Department Director Brent Blevins as Blevins accepts the first delivery.

Those 400 gallons were distributed to our local hospital, Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, which also operates hospitals in our neighboring counties of Lincoln and Mercer counties. The first production also was given to our local first responders of firefighters, police and EMS and also long-term healthcare facilities.

Wilderness Trail supplied close to 40,000 gallons of alcohol toward the effort of making hand sanitizer as the distillery continued to keep regional front line responders and hospitals in stock.

Blevins said that the health department has strategically distributed to first responders and health care facilities in Danville and surrounding counties. "Once we got Boyle covered, we tried to focus on the counties that send people to our hospital. Our main goal is keeping Ephraim (the hospital) safe."

The health department also is aiding local businesses that are remaining open. Baker pledges to continue the effort for the next several weeks to produce and provide locally during this time. “If we need to continue from there, we will,” he says.

Of course, Wilderness Trail has some great partners in this effort: Caverndale Farms in Boyle County and Walnut Hill Farm in Logan County are providing grain. Other partners are: Cardinal Ethanol, Owensboro Grain for glycerin and Minuteman Press owner Steve Martin for donating labels. Many thanks for your support.


Date: March 21, 2020 — May 2, 2020


Watch Wilderness Trail Distillery co-owners recent TEDx Talk

Dr. Pat Heist, chief scientific officer and co-owner of Wilderness Trail Distillery, recently gave a TEDx Talk in Nevada. His topic was "The Effect of Climate on Production and Quality of Bourbon Whiskey." He discusses the magic that happens in the barrel and how climate change might affect the quality and price of the whiskey in the future. Without further adieu, watch here.


Date: March 20, 2020 — March 20, 2020


Here's where you can find our Bourbon and Rye Whiskey

MarIf you're a fan of Wilderness Trail's Bourbon and Rye Whiskey we have great news for you. We've expanded to several states.

In addition to our home base of Kentucky where Heidelberg is our distributor, this is a list of states where Wilderness Trail is sold and who the distributors are.

Alabama: ABC Control State with Madvines and Spirits distributing

Alaska: Bill's Distributing

Arizona: Pacific Edge

Arkansas: Arkansas Wine and Spirits

California: Pacific Edge

Colorado: Eagle Rock Distributing

Delaware: Prestige

Florida: Palomar Beverage

Georgia: Eagle Rock Distributing

Illinois: BC Merchants

Indiana: Crossroads Vinters

Iowa: ABC control state

Kansas: Worldwide Beverage

Louisiana: Wines Unlimited

Maryland: Prestige

Massachusetts: 21st Century Wine Co.

Michigan: Benchmark

Minnesota: Palomar Beverage

Mississippi: ABC Control State with Madvines and Spirits distributing

Missouri: ShowMe Beverages

Nevada: Pacific Edge

New Jersey: Vine Street Imports

New Mexico: Santa Fe Boutique

New York: PM Spirits

Ohio: Heidelberg

Oklahoma: Provisions Fine Beverage Purveyors

Oregon:Strongwater Beverages

Pennsylvania: Vine Street Imports

South Carolina: Advintage

Tennessee: Athens Distributing

Texas: Palomar Beverage

Virginia: ABC control state

Washington, D.C.: Prestige LeDroit

Washington: Pacific Edge (Moda Beverage)

Wisconsin: Pequod Distribution

Wyoming: ABC control state

Europe: N10 Bourbons

In the ABC control states, fans of our spirits just have to ask their store to stock it. For instance, Virginia is a control state and is run by the state of Virginia ABC. Wilderness Trail is registered and in the system in Virginia and any store can place an order to stock it or to ship it directly to a person living there through that store for pick up. If you are looking for some of the latest Kentucky Straight Small Batch Bottled in Bond Bourbon with rye small grain, our Bourbon Single Barrel, Bottled in Bond Bourbon made with wheat or our infamous Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey Cask Strength, then please ask your local store to place an order for you!

Date: March 10, 2022


Wilderness Trail is 18th member of KY Bourbon Trail

Wilderness Trail, one of the founding distillery destinations on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft TourⓇ, has advanced to join the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® adventure, becoming the 18th stop on the world-famous journey that showcases America’s only native spirit.
Launched in 2012 as a premium craft distillery in Danville, Ky., Wilderness Trail has expanded its production and grown its distinctive visitor experience to meet the standards to become the first KBTCT distillery to graduate to the iconic Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour.

“This is an exciting day for Wilderness Trail, the Danville community and all our Kentucky Bourbon Trail® partners,” KDA President Eric Gregory said. “Wilderness Trail has established itself as a can’t-miss stop that fully delves into the art and science of our signature spirit.
“On behalf of our members, we congratulate Wilderness Trail on their success and proudlywelcome them to the legendary Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour as its 18th member, the most participating distilleries since the KDA founded the KBT® in 1999.”

Wilderness Trail Distillery also is a Heritage Member of the Kentucky Distillers Association. The Heritage Level is the highest level in the nonprofit group that unites and leads the state’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry. To qualify as a Heritage Member, a distillery must have 25,000 barrels of distilled spirits aging in its warehouses. Wilderness Trail’s 168-acre campus has more than 100,000 barrels aging in its six rickhouses.

Co-owners Shane Baker and Pat Heist are recognized globally as leading fermentation specialists through their original company, Ferm Solutions, consulting with distilleries around the world to develop products and enhance production.
With more than 20 years of experience in the production of alcohol and bringing some of the best brands to market, Baker and Heist expanded their focus to creating their own brand of unique spirits ensuring quality and a healthy dose of science in the process.
“We are very excited to be joining the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® after years on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® for both our growth as well as the impact to our community,” said Baker, Co-Owner and Master Distiller.
“We excel in offering a unique experience and educational perspective of the Bourbon-making process by focusing on the science in making Bourbon while maintaining a traditional Bourbon distillery process across our 168-acre campus in historic Danville, the birthplace of Kentucky.”
“Wilderness Trail Distillery has been an incredible asset to Boyle County,” said Jennifer Kirchner, Executive Director of Destination Danville. “In addition to their significant contributions to our local economy in agriculture, industry, and technology, they have helped us to build a robust tourism footprint.
“If you love Bourbon and you love Kentucky, then you will love Danville.”
Coupled with Danville’s small-town charm and history, Wilderness Trail will be a welcome addition that highlights the spectrum of the state’s different distillery sizes and approaches, said Adam Johnson, Senior Director of the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail® program.
“Even in a quintessential ‘Main Street, America’ town, Wilderness Trail shows you can have a world-class attraction with fantastic hospitality,” said Johnson, who is a graduate of Centre College in Danville and has lived in Danville for more than 20 years.
Wilderness Trail currently produces a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Single Barrel Bottled in Bond, a Small Batch Bottled in Bond Bourbon, and a Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey, as well as Harvest Rum and Blue Heron Vodka.
Open for tours Tuesday through Saturday, the visitor experience will include a 45-minute walking tour and an educational tasting seminar in the Tasting Room. 
“Shane and Pat have poured their hearts and souls into their distillery and it shows in every last detail,” KDA President Gregory said. “We applaud their commitment to our timeless craft and thank them for their efforts in securing Kentucky as the one true, authentic home of Bourbon.”


Sales of 16-year-old Bourbon bottle go to Bourbon Charity

Kevin McGuire of Danville (in photo) was the first person to receive one of the 50 box sets of the 16-year-old Bourbon. 

Shane Baker and Pat Heist purchased a 15-year-old barrel of Willett Distillery Bourbon at Willett-To-Be-Cured, an auction for the American Cancer Society. After a year of aging at Wilderness Trail, it was bottled to be sold this holiday season as 16-year-old.

Sales of the $2,500 box set all go to Bourbon Charity. The majority of Wilderness Trail’s donations through the Bourbon Charity will go directly to families who are battling cancer. Some of the funds also will go to public non-profits such as St. Jude and the American Cancer Society but the mission of this project to give direct to families.

Many of the people who contacted us about the Bourbon shared that they too have family or friends who have battled cancer and that is the reason they wanted to support the project. Even if the $2,500 bottle is not in the budget, if you want to make a donation, you may go to Bourbon Charity.

Most of the 50 bottles available were placed in the main lottery for people who signed up online at our website or in our visitor center.

We still have fundraising plans. That Bourbon barrel is going to get another chance to continue raising money to battle cancer. We distilled a special barrel of four-grain Bourbon almost 5 years ago.We are going to double-barrel it and finish it in this infamous old barrel for a while longer. Then we will have bottles of some more great, rare Bourbon to talk about and keep asking the question: How many lives can this one barrel keep touching?

What’s next for the barrel after that? Stay tuned.

Date: December 18, 2019 — December 31, 2019


Donation supports humane society spay/neuter program

Wilderness Trail Distillery presented $10,000 to the Danville-Boyle County Humane Society’s (DBCHS) community cat spay/neuter program. Distillery co-owners Shane Baker and Pat Heist made the donation to Fizzy Ramsey, president of the DBCHS Board of Directors, at the distillery's First Friday,

The event featured Patriotic Paws red, white and blue T-shirts and they still are on sale at the distillery. The donation was made possible from a charity barrel auction held during the Kentucky Bourbon Affair.

Baker chose the humane society because he and his wife, Melissa, are animal lovers and wanted to support the local nonprofit’s efforts to control the animal population.

“We are overjoyed by the generosity shown by Wilderness Trail Distillery,” says Ramsey. "They are the metaphoric pebble in a pond creating a ripple for change, not only in the Bourbon industry, but for our own community. Their partnership supports and inspires our paradigm shift in humanely addressing pet overpopulation.”

DBCHS has been working with a consultant to determine the humane society’s needs and an expanded community cat spay/neuter program is one of the biggest. The consultant recommended the local shelter use the “return to field” process for cats. That means in lieu of shelter intake or possible euthanasia, any community cat brought to the shelter will be spayed or neutered, vaccinated and returned to its original home location. The report recommends DBCHS find $49,210 in funding —  $39,000 to get an estimated 600 community cats sterilized through the return to field program; $10,000 to help with income-targeted spay/neuter through Happy Paws Spay/Neuter Clinic for cats and dogs; and $210 for portals needed in between cat cages to improve their living quarters.

Since the community cat program began this spring, Ramsey says Boyle County Animal Control and shelter staff has helped organize over 110 surgeries, which also involves community education on cat behavior and population control. “People arrive to surrender a stray cat(s) and we give them the opportunity to keep the cat as we schedule spay/neuter surgery and rabies vaccination. If the cat is feral and they prefer not to handle the cat, we get their permission to spay/neuter, vaccinate and return the cat to its original location; maintaining its place, and preventing new, likely unaltered, cats from moving in.” Area veterinarians have been instrumental in the success of this method in addressing community cats.

Date: July 5, 2019 — July 5, 2019


White Oak Trees planted

Thanks to the many people who purchased a white oak tree in hopes that their trees one day will be used for Wilderness Trail Bourbon barrels.

We planted the 2-year-old white oak trees in March and now all we have to do is wait for them to become barrels. Visit your tree as your come see us over the years. Seventy or so years from now, maybe your grandchildren will enjoy a barrel of Bourbon aged in the tree planted for you.

Date: March 16, 2019 — March 16, 2019