Alcohol distillery gets unanimous OK from Basalt council
November 23, 2011
BASALT – Vodka and gin could be flowing from Basalt as soon as next spring after a Woody Creek company got a green light for a distillery from the Town Council on Tuesday night.
The council voted 6-0 to approve the request by Woody Creek Distillery, whose partners are Mark Kleckner and Mary Scanlan. The distillery will be set up in the former Mountain Homefitters furniture-store space in the Mid Valley Business Center, near Valley Lumber. Kleckner said he and Scanlan hope to be producing “world-class” spirits by April. The gin and vodka can be sold immediately after it is distilled. Regulations require aging of bourbon and whiskey for two years.
“This probably won’t be the first time whiskey has been distilled in Basalt,” Mayor Leroy Duroux quipped. It might be the first legal distillation of spirits, he added.
The application sailed through the review. Council members praised it as a redevelopment within existing town limits rather than a proposal to build outside of town limits and seek annexation. The distillery also was credited as an economic driver.
A small tasting room and a retail sales area will be part of the operation.
“It’s going to bring some vitality to this [business] park,” said Alan Richman, a land-use planner for the distillery partners.
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Kleckner said the partners will invest roughly $1.3 million in two stills purchased from a company in Germany known for the high quality of its equipment. Another $1 million will be invested in remodeling the building, which is at 60 Sunset Drive, off Willits Lane. Once the distillery is in operation, it will employ four to six full-time workers at the start of production, according to Kleckner.
The emphasis will be on quality, not quantity, of spirits. Annual production will likely peak at 10,000 cases.
“We’re just a pimple on an ant in the general scheme of things,” Kleckner said.
But it’s going to be an impressive pimple. Potatoes for the operation will be grown at Scanlan’s Woody Creek ranch, and grains will be purchased locally whenever possible. The vast majority of boutique spirit makers purchase high-proof alcohol and water it down to their specifications, according to Kleckner. Woody Creek Distillery will start from scratch.
The partners had a 4-acre plot where they tested various varieties of potatoes in search of the best for their vodka. About 20 acres will be dedicated to spuds next year, Kleckner said, and within three years the distillery could be using as much as 400,000 pounds of locally grown product.
“The best vodkas in the world are potato based,” Kleckner said, adding that was his subjective opinion. “[Our] vodka is going to be potato, potato, potato.”
At this point, the product names are Basalt Bourbon, Roaring Fork Gin, Woody Creek Whiskey and Aspen Vodka, according to Richman.
“We’ve had people come up to us and say, ‘You’re opening a distillery in Basalt? That’s really cool,'” he said.
The council members obviously thought so, too.
“This is the most interesting application and presentation we’ve had in quite a while,” Councilwoman Karin Teague said.
In other council action Tuesday night:
• Duroux implored people to stop tearing down stop signs within the town limits. In recent weeks, signs have been uprooted from the Lake Christine area and thrown in the water, and they have been bowled over at the intersection of Lewis Lane and Willits Lane. Town signs noting an idling limit have also been vandalized.
“No matter how much you hate them, they need to stay where they are,” Duroux said.
• The council voted 6-0 to pass a resolution that gives the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority the technical support it needs to condemn land for a park-and-ride lot, if necessary.
RFTA is trying to acquire three properties for park-and-ride lots. Two of them are in Basalt, and one is in Glenwood Springs. One of the coveted Basalt properties is south of the existing bus lot at the main intersection in Basalt. The other is at Orchard Plaza, in the area more commonly considered El Jebel.
The bus agency wants to move quickly on acquisitions so it can advance its plan to construct modern bus stops as part of its bus rapid-transit expansion.
“RFTA is unable to begin the community development approval processes in both Basalt and Glenwood Springs until we have legal ownership of the properties to be acquired in each jurisdiction,” Mike Hermes, bus rapid transit project director, wrote to RFTA’s board of directors at a recent meeting.
“Continued delays with the property acquisition and community development processes in these jurisdictions will soon begin to adversely affect the entire project construction schedule,” Hermes’ memo continued.
The Basalt council held closed sessions with RFTA’s condemnation council two weeks ago and again Tuesday night to discuss legal implications and strategy. The resolution approved Tuesday night urges RFTA to acquire the property through negotiations.