Birmingham, Alabama-based Dread River Distilling Co. is releasing Master Series Batch 2, its most exclusive and limited-edition bourbon produced with a little help from some special (forces) friends. After releasing an inaugural Master Series bourbon in January 2023, the distillery has enlisted help from a different kind of master for round two, United States Air Force Master Sergeant Trey Bruner. Only 500 bottles of this double-barrel straight bourbon- aged first in American oak, then French oak casks are available nationwide beginning on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2023.
Dread River Master Series Batch 2 was selected and bottled by assistant distiller, Trey Bruner, a 20-year USAF Combat Controller veteran with eight combat deployments. Bruner comes to Dread River via the Department of Defense’s Skill Bridge program, which connects transitioning service members with industry partners in real-world job experiences.
After a grueling two-year training pipeline, the longest of any U.S. Special Operations Force, Bruner’s career as a CCT spanned deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and beyond. Those combat tours saw him attach with teams of America’s most elite Special Missions Units (Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, etc.) Combat Controllers are among the most sought-after because they are responsible for communicating with and coordinating air power, all this while integrating into any of the various teams to which they may be attached.
“As my career in the military was coming to an end, I started to think about that next phase of life and what I would like to do,” said MSGT Trey Bruner. “Being from Louisville, Kentucky, I’ve always had bourbon in my blood. CCT is certainly a challenging career, in many ways. The physical and mental pressures of controlling a few dozen aircraft loaded with thousands of pounds of bombs and directing them onto targets can be intense. You end up getting close to the guys and it can sometimes be hard to just shut that off. As I transitioned away from that, I wanted to make sure I replaced that sense of belonging and community with something new. Dread River has really helped me with that.”
The transition from military service to civilian work can be challenging for some service members. The transition from CCT service to his role as an assistant distiller has allowed Bruner to make the most of his technical abilities and strategic planning skills in a rewarding environment.
Under the mentorship of head distiller, Joshua Goins, Bruner was tasked with barrel maturation management. During the process of pulling samples for analysis, Bruner encountered a truly unique bourbon aging in a 60-gallon French oak cask. He selected this single-cask bourbon to be the next Master Series and bottled it in honor of fellow veterans.
Dread River’s flagship Straight Bourbon is the first bourbon distilled in Birmingham in over 100 years. For the Master Series Batch 2 Bourbon, Dread River transferred the straight bourbon originally aged in American oak casks for one year into a 60-gallon French oak cask for an additional two years. The French oak finishing beautifully rounds out the flavors and provides additional vanilla and caramel flavors. The double-barrel cask finishing draws out the bold qualities of the straight bourbon distilled with a mashbill of 60 percent corn, 30 percent wheat, and 10 percent malted barley. It is hand-bottled at cask strength, 106 proof, or 53% alcohol by volume.
Dread River Master Series Batch 2 has a deep amber color belying its double-barrel aging. It is pleasantly aromatic with a blast of beautiful French oak vanilla, a hint of cacao, shades of caramel, and a sweet plum sendoff. The palate is mellow with flavors matching the nose carrying through a medium finish and lasting notes of delectable, toasted bread and a balance of sweet vanilla.
As much as Bruner has learned during his time at Dread River, however, it may be the distillery that has learned more from him.
“Bringing Trey onto our team has given everyone here a valuable sense of perspective,” said John Cubelic, founder, Dread River Distilling Co. “We tend to hyperbolize mundane things because they appear to be important in a given moment but what he has experienced in his military career is beyond our wildest nightmares. His mental and physical strength, his intelligence, his character are all things we admire and want to celebrate. We are proud to have Trey and to support the CCT community, and the entire USAF and DoD.”
Dread River’s exclusive Master Series Batch 2 Bourbon, hand-selected by MSGT Trey Bruner, is available for pre-order on October 25 and goes on sale nationwide on Veteran’s Day, Saturday, November 11 for a suggested retail price of $106.99. The distillery will host the premiere of its second “Dreadventure” episode, highlighting the career of MSGT Bruner and CCT community at a launch event in Birmingham on Veteran’s Day. Dread River is a proud partner of the First There Foundation, which benefits CCT members and their families. The Master Series Batch 2 Bourbon will be available to ship to most states nationwide, while supplies last.