Dr. Pat Heist and his business partner Shane Baker founded Ferm Solutions in Danville, Kentucky in 2006. Ferm Solutions is a company that provides technical services and products to the fuel ethanol industry and distilleries. They currently service more than 600 distilleries with yeast, anti-microbials, enzymes and hands-on training.
In 2013 they expanded their business operation by building a distillery of their own – Wilderness Trail Distillery. About six years later and after two expansions they quickly went from a craft spirits distillery to one of the top 15 bourbon whiskey producers in the world. To give you an idea of the volume of production they are now filling about 215 53 gallon barrels of whiskey a day.
“We make Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Rye whiskies,” says Heist. “We make about 215 barrels a day which in units that you might be able to understand a little bit better that’s 50,000 bottles a day. So hopefully ya’ll are thirtsty here in four or five years. Somebody’s got to supply the world with whiskey.”
Dr. Heist, often referred to as Dr. Pat is well known in the distilling industry for his marquee beard, southern drawl and deep industry knowledge. Unlike that other world famous Kentuckian, Colonel Sanders who did serve in the army but was only an honorary colonel the Doctor in Dr. Pat is for real. Heists education includes B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Kentucky in Plant Pathology and microbiology-related fields. He spent six years as a Medical Microbiology Professor at Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine before co-founding Ferm Solutions.
Dr. Pat was recently invited to give a TEDx talk at the University of Nevada. If you’ve ever attended a TEDx talk or any kind of performance or competition they tend to save the best for last. On the day he spoke he was second to last out of about 20 speakers and performers. And about the person that spoke after him, he was a comedian put in that spot to close out the day.
Dr. Heist Teaches the World How Bourbon Whiskey is Made
Get ready for a soup to nuts explaination of the bourbon making process. Dr. Pat take takes us on a journey starting with the aging process the oak staves used to make the barrels go through before they ever touch the white dog, to the types of grains required to meet the legal requirements of bourbon whiskey, to what happens inside the barrel warehouse for four to six years until its time for bottling and best of all sipping. Again trying to put their volume into perspective, Wilderness Trail fills a 20,000+ barrel warehouse about every 100 days.
And now, let’s listen to Dr. Pat Heist’s full TEDx talk about the art and science of distillation and how the changing climate affects the whiskey that sits in those 53 gallons barrels for years for four to six years before it becomes bourbon whiskey.
In February of 2020 Wilderness Trail Distillery joined the world famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail. If you visit the distillery in Danville be sure to keep an eye out for Walker Woodfill. He’s a kinetically powered piece of working art that keeps a watchful eye over every ounce of whiskey that flows through the distillery. Watch the video to see him in action.
Source: EPA’s Climate Change website.