The recent boom of Utah distilleries making artisan gin, vodka, bourbon, rum and more would have been nearly unthinkable even a decade ago. That's about when David Perkins, formerly a biochemist, founded Park City's High West Distillery (HighWest.com) in 2007—the first legal distillery in Utah since the 1870s. Since that time, he's had to build a second location near Wanship at Sky Blue Ranch, in order to meet the demand for High West products worldwide. Can this really be Utah?
I doubt even an optimist like Perkins could have foreseen, when he started High West Distillery with a 250-gallon still, that his whiskeys would find worldwide fame, and that he'd need to build a 1,600-gallon copper pot still to produce award-winning whiskeys such as Rendezvous Rye, Campfire Whiskey, Bourye, Yippee Ki-Yay, American Prairie Bourbon, High West 7000 Vodka and The Barreled Boulevardier. "Whiskey Dave," as I like to call him, is a modern-day pioneer.
Having tested the market and found it to be a quickly growing one, a number of new distilleries have sprung up in Utah. The more, the better. Salt Lake City-based Beehive Distilling (BeehiveDistilling.com) launched in 2013 when co-founders Matt Aller, Chris Barlow and Erik Ostling created the state's first gin distillery since 1870. Beehive's Jack Rabbit Gin incorporates crushed juniper berries, lemon peel, sage leaves, coriander seeds, orris root, grains of paradise and rose petals into its formula, while their Barrel Reserve Gin is said to be all about "wood, fire and patience." It is aged in charred French oak wine barrels before resting in the distillery for around nine months. These gins could make a nice addition to your Pioneer Day.
It was also in 2013 when James Fowler, with more than 20 years of personal brewing experience, founded Sugar House Distillery (SugarHouseDistillery.net). He first created his small-batch vodka with no artificial flavors, colorings or additives, before also distilling silver rum, gold rum, malt whiskey and bourbon. His business has had an especially good year in 2016, having earned both a gold medal and "Best of Category" from the American Distilling Institute for the bourbon, and a bronze medal for the silver rum.
If you've ever seen the eye-catching bottle of Underground Herbal Spirit at your local watering hole or in the liquor store, you should know that it is made by Ogden's Own Distillery (OgdensOwn.com). Considering its potent 80 proof, Underground is a surprisingly smooth liqueur, made with an exotic blend of ingredients ranging from cassia, angostura, anise, cardamom, gentian, yarrow, wormwood, mate, guarana, ginseng, molasses, orange oil and lemon oil, to spearmint, pure cane sugar, agave and plum. Ogden's Own also produces the popular Five Wives Vodka and Porter's Fire Cinnamon whiskey liqueur.
Midvale is home to Denise and Kirk Sedgwick's Outlaw Distillery (OutlawDistillery.com), which launched in 2015. The mechanically minded Kirk actually designed and built all of the distillery's equipment. Current Outlaw products include rum, white whiskey, bourbon, moonshineand a spiced rum that's not only delicious by itself but can also give spiced rum cake an added lift.
When business partners Aaron Ilott and Jesse Farrer created Elevation Distilling (SaltCityVodka.com) it was in order to produce vodka that would be tasty enough to drink neat. The result, after nearly seven years of scheming, testing and formulating, is Salt City Vodka. Made from 100 percent corn, which has a natural sweetness, this vodka should have a place on your Pioneer Day table.
New to the party is recently opened Dented Brick Distillery (DentedBrick.com), makers of Antelope Island Rum. And, look for New World Distillery (NewWorldDistillery.com) to open during fall of 2016 in Eden, Utah.