There’s no need to wait for a St. Bernard to bring you a tiny barrel of brandy after your day on the slopes. More and more popular mountain resort destinations are uncorking ski town distilleries that, from whiskey to gins, have it all. All you have to do is save enough energy for the hot tub.
Montanya Distillers, Crested Butte, CO
At the age of 21, Montanya founder Karen Hoskin had her first sip of rum—Old Monk, an aged Indian dark—on a beach in Goa, India. It was the beginning of a love affair spanning 30 years and her launching Montanya Distillers in 2008.
Montanya was originally founded in Silverton, Colorado in a stone, turn-of-the-century brothel. Accordingly, the first batch was distilled in a lobster pot. Eventually, Hoskin moved the operation to Crested Butte with a distillery and tasting room downtown and a barrel house. Sticking with its no-sugar-added formula, it’s won almost every major award in the spirits world. This includes gold and double gold medals, Best in Class, USA Rum of the Year, and Craft Distillery of the Year. In 2019, it became the first distillery to receive investment from the Focus on Female Founders Venture Fund at Constellation Brands.
“Rum has a long and storied connection to skiing,” says Hoskin, “and what better rum to use than one made in the Rocky Mountains.”
High West Distillery, Park City, UT
The first legal distillery in Utah since 1870 (a whopping 150+ years), High West, founded in 2006 in Park City, has a stronghold on spirits in the Wasatch Range. Making its whiskey at the base of Park City, Deer Valley, and The Canyons, there is no question that this “ski-in gastro-distillery” is a favorite après-spot among area rippers.
Founded by former biochemist David Perkins and his wife Jane, it’s best known for its award-winning bourbon, made in a traditional 1,600-gallon copper pot still; it’s been named “Distiller of the Year” by Whiskey Advocate. Try its popular Campfire whiskey in one of three locations—saloons in Park City and Salt Lake International Airport; or the 30,000-square-foot High West Distillery on the Blue Sky cattle ranch in nearby Wanship.
WhistlePig, Waterbury, VT
Down the road from the Stowe ski area, a 150-year-old dairy farm has become a whiskey-making wonderland. Much of WhistlePig’s success is due to master distiller Dave Pickerell. Specifically, he distills seven days a week in a homemade copper-pot still and has since 2015. Pickerell says it’s all about blends and barrels, with its spirits aged in its own oak casks. The wood for the casks comes straight from its farm (shorter growing seasons means more growth rings, imparting more flavor). Add custom chars and toasts, and the result is a rye whiskey with countless awards.
The first off the line: its 12-year-old World Cask Finish Rye, finished with Sauternes, Madeira, and port. The new Boss Hog features a new finish with each release. Fun fact: WhistlePig has partnered with Parlor Skis to offer The Boss Hog package. The package includes a pair of custom, handmade skis with a whiskey graphic and sidewalls crafted from barrel staves. Most importantly, it features a bottle of its Vth Edition, The Spirit Of Mauve (finished in calvados casks in honor of its beloved pig, Mauve).
10th Mountain Division Whiskey & Spirit Co., Vail, CO
The 10th Mountain Division was a badass, tough-as-nails group of skiers who trained outside Vail, Colorado, for mountain warfare in Europe during World War II. Founded by Ryan Thompson and Christian Avignon, whose grandfather was a medic in the division, 10th Mountain Division Whiskey & Spirit Co. pays tribute to these schussing soldiers with spirits that are every bit as bold.
“Not only is it a tribute to the 10th Mountain soldier, but also to those that enjoy the mountain lifestyle, living it fully, every day,” says Thompson.
The distillery’s spirits—including bourbon, rye, cordials, vodka, moonshine, and more—are all made from locally sourced ingredients, paying further homage to the valley and its early explorers.
Warfield, Sun Valley/Ketchum, ID
Put good in, get good out. That’s the motto behind the Warfield Distillery in Ketchum, Idaho. Proof is found in its organic whiskey, distilled from pale and crystal malts in a copper-pot still. Aged in traditional ex-bourbon barrels, each sip unearths aromas of honey, cocoa, and vanilla. These mix with flavors of toffee, milk chocolate, coffee, and barley, too. Warfield’s whiskeys are made entirely in-house, from mash to barrel, using only organic malts. More geared toward gin? Its No Return Gin embodies the Idaho wilderness, featuring such organic botanicals as Douglas fir tips, sage, and juniper. For vodka aficionados, try Mayday Vodka, distilled from organic Idaho wheat and honoring Sun Valley’s iconic Baldy Mountain triple chair.
Breckenridge Distillery, Breckenridge, CO
Calling itself the “world’s highest distillery,” Breckenridge Distillery, at 9,600 feet, was founded in 2008. It’s known for its high-rye mash, American-style blended bourbon whiskey. Indeed, Breckenridge Bourbon is one of the most highly awarded craft bourbons in the market (a four-time winner of the World Whiskies Awards). It mashes, ferments, and distills much of its bourbon in house, with its blends including barrels from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana. The result is a light body, warm texture, and deep honey-amber hue with aromas of under-ripe banana, brown sugar, white pepper, and toasted sesame. Add long sweet oak and a vanilla finish with a touch of bitterness and you will have a difficult time finding a better post-ski spirit.
“Our water comes from snow melting off the Continental Divide, permeating through the mountains,” says founder Bryan Nolt. “Its purity, high mineral and low iron content pairs magically with ethanol and lends a mouthfeel I haven’t found anywhere else. And anything that doesn’t melt we get to ski on.”
Hint: Swing by for free tastings and tours, or join its members-only Dark Arts Society club, offering limited release bottles, small format products, and tastings in a private lounge.
Spotted Bear Spirits, Whitefish, MT
Specializing in local and organic ingredients, Spotted Bear Spirits is a craft, community-focused distillery in Whitefish, Montana. Spearheaded by “Architect of Alchemy” Lauren Oscilowski (and female-founded and -led), the distillery notably takes inspiration from Montana’s wild places. Its lineup reflects the rugged landscape of the area. Gin that showcases the flavors of citrus and piney juniper, for example. Combine that with floral top notes and it uniquely shines in post-ski martinis. Skiers flock to its Whitefish tasting room for homespun Mountain Mint Peppermint Schnapps. Bonus: Be it a Moscow mule or ginger vodka, proceeds go toward helping preserve the state’s public lands.
Steamboat Whiskey Co., Steamboat Springs, CO
Located in the heart of downtown in Steamboat Springs’ first-ever co-op building, Steamboat Whiskey Co. makes high-quality spirits by hand in an American-made pot. Most importantly, it’s the Northwest Colorado ski town’s first and only craft distillery. Stop in for a free tasting, whiskey-infused dessert, or a signature libation (try its Sleeping Giant Gin or Ski Town Vodka), all while watching its distilling team in action through the viewing window in its recently expanded, cozy bar. “We’re a distillery pub, one of just a handful in the state,” says co-owner Nathan Newhall. Bonus: Happy hour daily from 4–6 p.m. and all day Sunday.
Santa Fe Spirits, Santa Fe, NM
Located at 7,000 feet in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe Spirits is an artisan distillery priding itself on capturing the “essence of the Southwest.” Founded by avid skier Colin Keegan in 2010, the company is a snowball’s throw from Ski Santa Fe. Living on an apple orchard in Tesuque, he always had excess cider on his hands (local’s tip: Try its barrel-aged apple brandy).
The distillery branched out to make a range of spirits, including its Wheeler’s Western Dry Gin. Its name comes from explorer George Wheeler, namesake of New Mexico’s highest mountain. Keegan roamed the Southwest searching for the perfect combo of gin flavors. He found it in hop flowers, osha root, juniper, and a local cactus. “It all creates a one-of-a-kind flavor reminiscent of cucumber, but full of sweet nectar and delicate perfume,” says business manager Caitlin Richards, also touting the gin’s hint of sage. For whiskey lovers, try the Colkegan Single Malt, a winner of the 2020 Icons of Whiskey award.
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