You’ve heard of bourbon aged in disparate locations like the sea, the tropics, and even plans to send it into space to see how maturation environments affect flavor. Add a restored coal mine to the mix, because the new Brothers Wright Distilling Co. is storing its barrels deep underground in a mine that dates back to the early 1900s to mature.
According to the brand, this idea came about when Brothers Wright co-founder Kendall Wright discussed it years ago with the late master distiller Lincoln Henderson, one of the founders of Angel’s Envy. Kendall and his brother Shannon bought a 1,000-acre farm in 2020 near the Tug Fork River in Pike County on the border of West Virginia and Kentucky. They discovered some old maps and realized there were abandoned mines on the property that they could turn into barrel warehouses to age bourbon. They set about restoring those mines and then buying hundreds of barrels of bourbon to age there, with plans to expand the operation in the future. According to a story a statement from Kentucky governor Andy Beshear’s office, there are plans to build a 12,000-foot distillery, welcome center, restaurant, and eventually open an underground visitor experience.
There are currently a few expressions available to purchase from the Brothers Wright Distillery website, contract-distilled and sourced bourbon that spent about six months aging in the coal mines. These include a four-grain single-barrel bourbon made from a mashbill of 67 percent corn, 17 percent red wheat, eight percent rye, and eight percent malted barley. This whiskey is bottled at 99 proof and is just over six years old. There’s a younger barrel-proof version of that bourbon as well bottled at about five and a half years old. Finally, there are wheated and rye bourbons available, each with 20 percent of their respective grains and also bottled as single barrel expressions. “Our long-term plan is to have a variety of underground age statements that range from six months to 10+ years in the mine,” marketing director Charles Mims told Robb Report in an email.
Mims says that while a typical underground coal mine stays at around 60 degrees, the plan is to heat the concrete floors with excess water from the still. “We believe that will be able to fluctuate the temperature underground from 60 to 90-plus degrees in a fairly short timeframe, mimicking seasonal changes at our own discretion and our own pace,” he said. “Airflow and barometric pressure are two other environmental variables that we can easily control through ventilation, essentially pushing and pulling on these barrels using the atmosphere they are sitting in.” There will also be an area in the mine that is not heated to use as sort of a control.
It will be a while before we see what else is to come from Brothers Wright, but the team is eager to see the results. “This whole process just takes time and is an experiment,” Mims said. “It’s never been done before and we are excited to learn exactly what happens to these barrels in the underground environment.”