Friday, December 6, 2013
Hands At Newest Kentucky Micro Distillery Are Old Pros
People who start micro-distilleries come from many different backgrounds. Some start from scratch, or rather from itch, with no previous related experience. Many start out as brewers, a prerequisite skill for distilling. Others have experience in non-production aspects of the alcoholic beverage industry, such as sales or marketing. Some are moonshiners who want to go legit.
Then there are Pat Heist and Shane Baker, the guys behind Wilderness Trace Distillery in Danville, Kentucky. Yesterday, the Kentucky Distillers' Association (KDA) announced that Wilderness Trace Distillery has joined the KDA and become the ninth stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour.
A special grand opening is being held today with KDA and member distillery executives, and Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer, in attendance. Tours begin tomorrow at 10 a.m., with food and door prizes provided.
“Wilderness Trace and its parent company, Ferm Solutions, have more than 10 years’ experience in fermentation and distillation techniques, making them a welcome addition to our organization,” said Rick Robinson, Chairman of the KDA Board of Directors. “This new distillery is a natural extension of their core business and will allow them to showcase their expertise and knowledge.”
Robinson is Plant Manager at Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg. “We proudly welcome them as a partner in our signature industry,” he said.
Located at 445 Roy Arnold Avenue in Danville, Ferm Solutions is a long-time provider of advanced ethanol-producing yeast strains and a leader in molecular and genetic engineering technologies. The company also is developing genetically modified yeast strains for improved fermentation. It has invested more than $2 million over the past two years and employs 13 people.
Owners Heist and Baker say the distillery tours will highlight the science behind fermentation and educate visitors on the art and craft of distilling. Brands will include Wilderness Trace Bourbon, Settlers Select Danville’s Rye Whiskey, Blue Heron Vodka, and Harvest Rum.
Because so many of their Ferm Solutions customers are distillers, a small distillery seemed like a good idea. But rather than make it just another tool for the lab, they went full scale micro, welcoming visitors and making products for sale to the public.
As they were preparing, they met a Danville neighbor who is an old hand at the whiskey business, Dave Scheurich, who retired from Brown-Forman a few years ago as plant manager at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky. Scheurich is a master distiller, although he never had the title, and is consulting (unpaid) with Heist and Baker on flavor sources and distillation process control.
The new distillery plans to offer classes in fermentation and distilling, some of which will be taught by Scheurich. Only truly semi-retired, Scheurich is the principal of High Spirits Enterprises LLC.
Danville is a good place for a micro-distillery, as it is the home of Centre College and historically significant as part of the original settlement area for Europeans in Kentucky, beginning in 1774. Although there is no documentary evidence to prove it, it is likely that Kentucky's first distillers were in the Danville-Harrodsburg area.