Getting High in the West: Utah Embraces Craft Breweries and Distilleries

High West Whiskey barrels
Written by Scott Cullins
You can’t get a drink in Utah, so don’t bother visiting. Us locals are in a bad mood anyway, and we aren’t nice to anyone. We don’t even ride bikes anymore, because after a good ride we know we will be disappointed. Because we won’t be able to get a drink. And we’ll be sober. High West Whiskey

It’s kind of getting old, isn’t it? That worn-out story about visitors shunning the Beehive state because there is no place to get a drink. It’s hard to imagine anyone would deny themselves the opportunity to defy the gravity on the Wasatch mountains…for any reason. The skiing and riding is arguably some of the best in the world. But despite a few odd rules—slight inconveniences, really—there is NO argument about being able to easily find a drink in Utah.

Utahn’s have embraced craft breweries and distilleries in recent years.

In fact, Utahn’s have embraced craft breweries and distillers in recent years. With about a dozen great craft breweries and brewpubs, and a half dozen or so spirit distilleries, Utah is producing some world-class product.

I recently dropped in to High West Distillery’s new Blue Sky facility in Wanship, UT, and wanted to tell you a bit about what’s going on there.

New still at High West Whiskey

High West’s Lead Distiller Brendan Coyle (right) and VP of Marketing Justin Lew (left) checking out the recently acquired Forsyths pot still, from Rothes, Scotland. This copper bad boy has 1,500 gallon capacity. That’s a of high west whiskey.

The facility includes the main distillery, of course, as well as offices and a refectory—which is a fancy name for a cool place to hang out and drink whiskey. I got to take a close look at their new 1,500 gallon Forsyths copper still (see above), imported from Scotland.

High West is now taking their distilling to a new level, competing with more of the national brands by distilling their own original grain recipes.

Historically known mostly for its blended product, High West is now taking their distilling to a new level, competing with more of the national brands by distilling their own original grain recipes. I was especially excited to hear about High West’s plan to distill Scotch Whisky…err…single malt whisky—for those of you in Daybreak, that’s “whiskey” without the “e.” While it may be the same process, the name Scotch is reserved for single malt whisky distilled in Scotland. I’m not typically a Scotch drinker, but I would be very interested in a local, single malt whisky. Especially one that’s been aged. That day will come.

In the new blended product category, High West Whiskey has a couple new products to watch out for. First up is American Prairie (see below), a blend of straight bourbons. I got to sample American Prairie and, as expected, it was very nice. David Perkins is still a master blender. In fact, he inspired me to blend a bit of Bulleit Rye with an inexpensive Kentucky Bourbon (brand name withheld for proprietary reasons)…basically making my own version of Bourye.

High West Whiskey American Prairie, a bourbon whiskey.

High West’s latest blend, American Prairie, a bourbon whiskey.

Speaking of samples, I also tried a bit of High West Whiskey’s Campfire Whiskey…a blend of Rye, Bourbon and Scotch. The source of the Scotch is one of High West’s top corporate secrets. Kind of like the source of my Kentucky Bourbon.

Lastly, I was informed about a new product coming out called Yippee Ki-Yay, a rye blend sourced by other distilleries. Watch for Yippe Ki-Yay to be released in the next couple months.

Unwinding after an afternoon MTB ride is more fun with alcohol, let’s face it. Cheers to High West Distillery for helping me unwind so gracefully.

For more information on High West Whiskey distillery, visit highwest.com. And check out our story on Ogden’s New World Distillery. We’ll cover more breweries and distilleries soon.

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About the author

Scott Cullins

Scott is publisher of wasatchrider.com, Wasatch Rider magazine and the Teton Valley WYDAHO Outdoor Guide and Map. After ten years in the Tetons, Scott moved to Park City in 2011 and, in 2017, moved down to Holladay, UT. Scott is a mountain biker and skier, and spends his spare time as a publishing consultant, providing creative services and advising clients on all matters publishing. Email Scott at scott@canyonmedia.us

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