Wilderness Trail Distillery - Aerial Photo c 2019

As Bourbon Heritage Month arrives and festival season begins to heat up it’s time to put the 2019 Kentucky BBQ Festival on your list. Not only is it the state’s premiere BBQ festival but it’s also held at one of the states finest craft distilleries.

The ninth annual Kentucky BBQ Festival takes place September 6-8 at Wilderness Trail Distillery in Danville, Kentucky. Fingers crossed that the monsoons that hit many festivals last year won’t repeat this year. This festival marries three things – music, barbeque and of course bourbon. There will be seven bands, seven pitmasters and a mix of distilled spirits seminars that are free as well as a few paid ones held on the grounds of the distillery.

Related Story – What is Bourbon Heritage Month?

There’s at least one special musical performance of note at this year’s event that bourbon fans won’t want to miss. It’s a premier or re-premier for one of the bands leads singers. Everyone that knows Wilderness Trail co-founders Shane Baker and Dr. Patrick Heist can rock a beard but did you know they were once in a rock band together back in the day. Well, this 2019 Kentucky BBQ Festival will be a return to their roots for at least half of this duo as Dr. Heist takes the stage with his band Zella May.

World Premier Rock Video by Zella May

Here’s a sneak peak of what you can expect to see at this year’s event. If the sound doesn’t start hit the unmute button.

Ok, now back to the bourbon.

Bourbon and BBQ Seminars Will Teach the Fundamentals

From seminars on topics such as pairing Bourbon with BBQ to Master Distiller tours, this year’s Kentucky State BBQ Festival lets the country’s Native Spirit share the stage with the star of the festival – BBQ.

Wilderness Trail’s Co-Founder Master Distiller Shane Baker returns with his popular Master Distiller tours at 2 and 4 p.m. Sept. 7. The 90 minute tour includes a trip to the barrelhouse where you will taste the Bourbon from the barrel. The tours feature the laboratory for Ferm Solutions, the distillery and one of the many barrel warehouses on the grounds. Proceeds for these small group tours will go to support a local cancer charity.

Bourbon Seminars Galore

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The seminars will happen in the Bourbon lounge on the distillery’s front lawn.

Bourbon & BBQ – Presenter Steve Coomes in a recent Bourbon+ Magazine wrote a feature story about how to best pair Bourbon with barbecue. What he learned surprised him. In this demo, Steve will pair Wilderness Trail Bourbon and rye with various barbecue cuts, while explaining why Bourbon and barbecue are a match made in heaven (in case you needed more proof!)

Bourbon 101 – Presenter and auther Susan Reigler will teach attendees the basics of bourbon – how it’s made, how to taste it and she’ll touch on its history in this educational seminar. You won’t walk away an expert, but you will be able to hold your own in a bourbon conversation.

Drinking Straight from the Barrel – Moderated by author Kevin Gibson and Wilderness Trail team members this discussion will help with the detail of what you do when you walk into a liquor store. You’ve no doubt seen the terms “barrel proof” or “cask strength.” This seminar will educate you on how to read the bottles label and how to pick what you like and best of all they’ll elaborate on the virtues of getting bourbon straight from the barrel. After all, you can always add water. But can you get your proof back when it’s bottled at 80 proof?

Bourbon History – Presenter Carla Carlton, managing editor of Bourbon+ magazine will dive into the history of bourbon. Did you know presidents have impacted Bourbon? Congress frequently debated it? And that distillers once shipped barrels via flat boat? The history of Bourbon is a fascinating adventure into Americana.

Let’s Have Rye — Once nearly pronounced dead, rye has made a huge comeback over the last decade. In this session Coomes will help take your bourbon knowledge over to the rye side.

A Legend Returns: Jim Rutledge with Fred Minnick – After retiring from Four Roses, the iconic Master Distillery and Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame member Jim Rutledge, had the itch to get back into Bourbon. In this Q&A, Jim talks about his new distillery plans, his new brand on the shelf now (Cream of Kentucky) and there will be some tasting of a little of his new whiskey.

Bonus: Critiquing Pat Heist’s band – Pat Heist’s band, Zella May, debuts at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Kentucky State BBQ Festival. Just like one sip of Wilderness Trail bourbon will get you hooked on their whiskey, a listen to Dr. Pat on the mike is sure to get you hooked on Zella May.

Additional activities for anyone wanting to work up an appetite for the BBQ

  • There is a 5K run and a Smokin’ Butt bicycle ride Sept. 7.
  • Don’t miss a chance to show off your cooking skills at the Backyard BBQ competition Sept. 7.
  • Brush up on your hog calling and bean eating talents for contests.

Festival admission is $5 per day or $10 for a three day weekend pass. You can learn more about a full list of events for the 2019 Kentucky BBQ Festival here or on their website here.

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