For a great craft bourbon experience on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, visit the family-owned Wilderness Trail Distillery in Danville.
Wilderness Trail Distillery is the only craft distillery to be added to the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail (as of 2022).
Of course, dozens of distilleries are listed on what's called the "Craft Tour" — usually fairly small operations. Wilderness Trail was one of the early members of that list. But it's graduated to the Bourbon Trail proper and now sits alongside 17 other large, established bourbon destinations!
Thinking of adding this one to your itinerary? Here's how our tour went!
Booking a Tour at Wilderness Trail Distillery
As with most distilleries, it's best to book in advance online at Wilderness Trail.
Tours last approximately an hour, with tastings at the end. The cost is $15 per person.
Exploring the Distillery
The first tours begin at 9 a.m. (This was the time slot we had.)
As our guide put it, “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning!” Of course, I should probably add, this was just a joke. Drink responsibly.
Our tour started at the Visitor Center.
It has to be said that one of the true highlights of the tour was meeting Cooper the distillery cat. He followed us everywhere and was adorably social.
We saw another cat at Limestone Branch Distillery over in Lebanon. I guess we're big fans of meeting cats while we travel.
Our tour began with a short bourbon overview, which took about five minutes.
This distillery gets corn and rye from Kentucky and malted barley from Wisconsin.
In the fermentation room, we saw cookers and fermentation vats.
The liquid resulting from fermentation is called distillers' beer. This goes into the beer wells.
The beer wells continuously supply fermented liquid to the column stills.
For more details on the whole process, check out Fred Minnick's book Bourbon Curious.
Wilderness Trail uses a sweet mash, which means it doesn’t re-use its grain. Most distilleries use sour mash, so they do add previously fermented grain to new batches.
This difference showed up when we got to taste their unaged moonshine, informally known as "white dog." It was a lot sweeter than others I’ve tried, and much less harsh to sample!
We also saw a one-of-a-kind spirit safe. Historically, these devices were used by tax agents to gauge the proof of a batch. They're still used in some places to allow operators to analyze their own whiskey.
The one at Wilderness Trail is the world's first kinetic-powered spirit safe, using only the power of the liquid coming off the still to keep it working.
It even has a name. Walker Woodfill.
Next we visited the rickhouses. They smelled amazingly good, a mix of oak and whiskey. This was my favorite part of the tour. We learned that Wilderness Trail doesn't rotate their barrels once they're placed.
At the end of the tour, we enjoyed product samples of rye whiskey and wheated whiskey in the tasting room.
Cooper the distillery cat was on hand to assist.
In the gift shop, not only can you buy bourbon, but there are other craft products like bourbon barrel aged coffee and bourbon and honey soap. It was fun to browse.
If you're looking for a place to eat before or after your tour, check out Hub Coffee House and Café. There’s a small location near the distillery, or a larger, cuter location with a bookstore in downtown Danville.
We enjoyed a meal at Parthenon Greek-American Eats. The gyros were fabulous.
Wilderness Trail was an excellent stop as we continue our Bourbon Trail explorations! If you're planning to visit central Kentucky, consider adding this place to your list.