8.8

Woody Creek Potato Vodka Review

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Woody Creek Potato Vodka Review

In the first few years of navigating the unsure waters of the micro-spirit scene, start-up craft distilleries typically evoke images of hand-cranked mills, dusty warehouses, and dented stills acquired by begging, borrowing, cajoling, and cashing in more than a few favors. Which is why visiting Woody Creek Distillery and Tasting Room is a totally disorienting experience. They started opened the Basalt, Colorado tasting room and started serving their potato vodka in March 2013, but the operation doesn’t look the least bit rough and tumble.

The 10,000-foot facility is a thing of beauty, with an expansive bar serving high-end cocktails and food, a big ol’ gift shop, and panels of windows that look into the warehouse, which boasts bright copper distilling equipment that looks lifted out of a pristine steampunk factory.

Make no mistake, owners Mary and Pat Scanlan and Mark Kleckner have spent some serious coin in putting this place together. But money alone doesn’t promise a worthy product. Thankfully, their overall approach—not just their deep pockets—delivers.

Woody Creek is the only U.S. distiller to control every part of the distilling process. They harvest more than 500,000 alpine potatoes annually, grown specifically for them on Scanlan Family Farm in nearby Woody Creek. They then transport ‘em eight miles to the distillery and get to work. During the process from farm to bottle they add only two other ingredient: locally sourced yeast and mountain spring water.

Using potatoes grown specifically for their vodka (rather than sourcing the unsellable ones from a commercial operation) and cutting the harvest-to-still process to a single day definitely plays into the alchemy. But the whole process is likely perfected by their custom-made copper and stainless steel Carl Distilling System, crafted in Goepingen, Germany. This elaborate, world-class system includes three fermenting tanks, two striping pots, and two, 34-foot-tall rectification columns, each with 21 bubble plates for the most effective distilling possible. As a result, they have to filter the vodka only once.

The end result? A revelation, especially compared to the more mainstream potato vodkas. You can actually taste the vodka. The nose is sweet and fresh and inviting, followed by a first sip that delivers hints of vanilla and sweet cream—but without being the least bit cloying. It has real character and body, reinforced by a silky mouthfeel that ends with the slightest hint of warmth and pepper (when drank neat). It’s bold enough to almost redefine vodka drinks that typically disguise the alcohol, and works wonders when sipped on the rocks with a spray of fresh lemon or lime.

But perhaps my almost rapturous appreciation for this vodka also stems from the fact that their potato farm sits next to where the late, great Hunter S. Thompson resided in his later years. Back when he ran for mayor of the nearby town of Aspen, back where he sadly ended his life, and back where his ashes were shot into the air from a giant cannon, where those same ashes then settled onto those same potato-covered fields. Here’s hoping circumstances afford Woody Creek to recruit Ralph Steadman away from drawing labels for Flying Dog Brewery long enough to create a special Gonzo release…

Distillery: Woody Creek
City: Basalt, Colo.
Style: Potato Vodka
ABV: 40%