The picture above is of two recently-built whiskey aging warehouses in Kentucky. The one on top is Jim Beam's, on the old Chapeze Distillery property just north of Beam's Clermont distillery. The lower one is for Danville's Wilderness Trail Distillery, which is planning to move from Danville to this farm on Old Lebanon Road, just west of town.
They look pretty similar. Both were designed and built by Buzick Construction, which builds most of the warehouses and other buildings for distilleries in Kentucky and Tennessee. The difference is size. The Beam building will hold about 50,000 barrels, more than twice what a standard warehouse will hold. The Wilderness Trail one will hold about 2,100 barrels, about 10 percent of the standard size. It is the first aging warehouse Buzick has designed and built for a craft distillery, but it probably won't be the last. In fact, Wilderness Trail plans to build a second one very soon.
According to Shane Baker, one of the principals at Wilderness Trail, they worked with Tom Blincoe at Buzick on a design that would give them a combination of different rickhouse design advantages, such as maximum air flow, and a set up customized for their production flow. Their process is to grind, cook, ferment, distill and barrel all for one single batch that is destined for a single barrel release. "So we went after a new term, single batch single barrel," says Baker. "Uniquely with our experience level we are able to keep grind, cook, fermentation and distillation the same, so in essence the barrel will be the difference in the end."
The warehouse, also called a rickhouse, has two levels that are a traditional three high each. They are recording only a 12° to 15° temperature variance from the bottom to the top row, which was their goal for consistent aging. "There is a lot of engineering in that little warehouse," says Baker.
Wilderness Trail has been making bourbon for about two years but probably won't bring any of it to market for another two years, at least.
Wilderness Trail Distillery is an outgrowth of Ferm Solutions, the Danville company of which Baker is President and CEO. As the name suggests, their business is the development and management of yeasts for the beverage alcohol and fuel ethanol industries, and related products. Wilderness Trail is currently sharing space with Ferm Solutions and both companies are growing fast, so the distillery is moving.
Wilderness Trail is one of two Kentucky craft distilleries started by fermentation scientists. The other is Town Branch Distillery in Lexington, a spin-off of Alltech.