When it comes to distilling spirits, Woody Creek has one goal: “to make nothing but the finest craft spirits, each with a unique taste and character that was true to the origins of that spirit.” For them, that means growing and harvesting many of the ingredients, as well as collaborating with local farms to obtain prime material.
We talked to Keith Hemeon, Vice President of Sales for Woody Creek, to find out more about the distillery’s commitment to local production and clean, high-quality spirits.
CRUSHBREW: How did Woody Creek get started?
KEITH HEMEON: Our founder Patrick Scanlan knew about the history of growing potatoes in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado and reached out to his best friend, Mark Kleckner. In a former life, they were engineers, performing sub-contract work for the defense industry and had always enjoyed drinking vodka, specifically potato vodka.
CRUSHBREW: What inspired its creation and how did you get involved with the project?
KH: The inspiration for its creation was Patrick Scanlan. He believed that right outside of Aspen, CO. he could grow his own potatoes and produce single distilled, world class vodka from fresh potatoes that were harvested that same day. About three years ago I was working for Southern Wine and Spirits in Aspen/Snowmass as a sales consultant, selling wine and spirits. A close friend of mine was working for Woody Creek Distillers, and she asked me to come by and check out the Distillery. Once I walked in the door, I knew how special it was and I wanted to be a part of it.
C: You grow some of your ingredients yourself and buy others from local farms. Why was that choice made?
KH: We grow all of our own potatoes locally in the Roaring Fork Valley, close to 1.5 million pounds which produces our Potato Vodkas and Gin. We also grow Rye near Ft. Collins, CO. for our Colorado Straight Rye Whiskey. We purchase Barley, Malted Barley, Corn and Wheat from local Colorado farmers across the state,
C: You’ve also made a commitment not to blend with base spirits produced by other distillers. Why is that?
KH: Simple. We feel that the “Handcrafted” label we put on every bottle should stand for solely producing every drop that goes into our bottle. Purchasing Neutral Grain Spirit from out of state and then blending it confuses the consumer on what is actually “Made in Colorado” or even “Handmade” or Handcrafted. There are only a hand-full of “Craft” Distilleries that produce 100% of their own product that goes in the bottle.
C: You produce a very unique, 100 percent potato vodka. Can you tell us about it? How is it different to other vodkas?
KH: It all starts in the potato fields. We grow about 1.3 million pounds of Potatoes annually exclusively for Vodka distillation. Our WCD Potato Vodka is single distilled, unfiltered and moves from the soil to the bottle in about five Days. We only produce our vodkas three months out of the year during Harvest in the fall. Our WCD Potato Vodka won a Double Gold Medal at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition where is consequently also won the overall “Best in Show” for the entire vodka category.
C: What other drinks do you produce and what makes them special?
KH: We produce Woody Creek Colorado Gin from Potatoes as well and a Colorado Straight Rye Whiskey. The Gin is special because it is made from our Potato distillation as well and the Colorado Rye is special because it is made from Colorado Rye that we grow and harvest. It is 100% Straight Colorado Rye which to my knowledge is the only Rye from Colorado that uses 100% Colorado Rye for it’s mash bill, aged close to 3 years in our own temperature controlled rack house.
C: What’s next for the distillery? Is anything coming up?
KH: We have a few more aged spirits on the horizon. A Colorado Whiskey, Rum and eventually Bourbon.