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Wilderness Trail Distillery, AmBrabev, Jane Barleycorn’s Add to Danville’s Spirits Culture

Area businesses give adult beverage culture refreshing twists

By Stephanie Stewart-Howard on August 31, 2015

Owner of AmbraBev poses in front of bottles.
Brian Snead

The spirits industry has been a vital part of Kentucky’s history from colonial days, and Danville -Boyle County proudly continues that tradition. Worthy of note are Wilderness Trail Distillery, AmBrabev’s efforts to bring Brazilian spirits to the U.S., and, for those who want to up their spirits knowledge, cocktail classes at Jane Barleycorn’s Market and Bar.

Kentucky Bourbon and More

Wilderness Trail has its roots in Danville’s Ferm Solutions, serving not only distillers but the biofuel industry with yeast strains and more. Owners Shane Baker and Pat Heist, and manager Jerod Smith, all lovers of the state’s bourbon and its history, had always wanted a distillery. In 2013, that came together as they began fermenting sweet mash-based bourbon in charred oak barrels at their Danville location.

That bourbon, a wheated variety, should become available in 2018. Meanwhile, they’re distilling fine Blue Heron Vodka (using grain from Coverdale Farm in Boyle County) and Harvest Rum, made with Kentucky sorghum instead of molasses. The flavorful rum is then aged in bourbon barrels sourced from Four Roses.

See where Danville ranked on our Top 10 Cities for Historic Preservation

Now, Wilderness Trace has purchased 21 acres on the edge of Danville, building a rickhouse and a new distillery. An old house on the property serves as the new gift shop and tasting room.

“Our bourbon is authentic” Smith says. “Not that it’s old or folksy, but it’s genuine. There are no fake stories about it. We are what we are: true bourbon enthusiasts making the very best bourbon we can … And our integration into Boyle County and Danville has been great. It’s a small town with a lot of culture.”

Brazil Meets Boyle

Cachaça, the native spirit of Brazil, is made of fresh pressed sugar cane juice. It predates molasses-based rum by more than a century. AmBrabev came about when the Boyle County Baeker family married into the Brazilian Bispo family, and while traveling back and forth decided the U.S. needed to experience cachaça.

CEO Zach Baeker had been in health care, but he found his passion in the spirits industry. Aided by his dad, Thomas, and sister and brother-in-law, Jordan and Eduardo Bispo, arranged for the private distilling of a cachaça in Brazil. It is then imported and bottled at Speakeasy Spirits in Nashville. The extraordinary result, Espirito XVI Cachaça, is available in six states, with more to be added soon.

“This is a Brazilian spirit tailored for the American market. There’s an interesting balance between the familiar flavors of rum and a tequila. It’s exotic, but both familiar and new,” says Baeker of his premium spirit.

The company also produces a distinctive cane-juice-based Boteco Vodka, one of the very few available in the U.S.

Drink Wisely

Jane Barleycorn’s Market & Bar in Danville may not produce its own spirits, but it does a fine job educating the public on them, regularly offering classes on wine and spirits tasting. With a bar and shop that sells exceptional craft beer, spirits and fine wines, plus live music and a dinner bistro-style menu served Tuesday through Saturday evenings, Jane Barleycorn’s is a game changer when it comes to exploring new spirits and familiar favorites alike.

See our list of 10 more fun things to do in Danville, KY


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