What in the world are bourbon shrooms?

Posted at 5:30 PM, Nov 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-30 17:43:08-05

DANVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — Every day, Wilderness Trail Distillery produces 215 barrels of bourbon.

With that bourbon comes 90 thousand gallons of a byproduct called stillage.

It's hazardous to the environment so distillers can't just dump it or toss it out.

"Getting rid of your stillage is one of your biggest headaches for distillers," Wilderness Trail Distillery Visitor Experience Manager Emily Toadvine said.

Like distilleries across the state, Wilderness Trail invites farmers to come by and take it off their hands to use as cattle feed.

Farmer JR Walker was one of the many farmers that went to the distillery Wednesday to collect stillage. He made three trips, filling his truck with 6,000 gallons each time.

"They hear the truck, they know to come running," farmer JR Walker said about how his cattle react when he returns with the stillage.

Walker said he saves $160 a day on cattle feed by collecting the free stillage.

But as distilleries continue to grow, and therefore create more stillage, the challenge of what to do with it is getting more serious.

That's where UK Assistant Professor Tyler Barzee comes in.


He, along with a group of other researchers, is looking into using stillage as fertilizer to grow mushrooms. As they grow, they consume the stillage.

"Basically, this process is sort of like composting in many ways," Barzee said.

Their research is focusing on gourmet mushrooms which can go for $15-25 a pound.

"We are trying to make positive solutions that are good for the environment, good for the people, good for the economy," he said.

It doesn't hurt that they have a catchy name too. They're appropriately named "bourbon shrooms."

And no, there's no alcohol in them.

And no, they're not the kind that gets you high.

What they are is a tasty treat that offers another creative solution to a problem Kentucky distillers have had for years.

UK is still very early in the research process, but the end goal of the project is to teach local distilleries how to grow the mushrooms on their own, or mushroom producers could also take it on.

The research was made possible through funding from the UK Office of Sustainability.