Marble Distillery: the world’s greenest, how the owners made it that way
It’s Earth Day! Celebrate with a cocktail and toast to sustainability in downtown Carbondale!
Wait, the official day was Saturday? Never mind. Let’s toast anyway.
Around here, every day is Earth Day, and even enjoying a cocktail can be sustainable in the best sense.
To that end, what was once a vacant lot at the end of Main Street in Carbondale before 2015 is now a two-story, contemporary building housing Marble Distillery and a five-bedroom inn.
It became the most sustainable distillery on the globe in less than a decade.
What had started as a hobby for Connie Baker – a Roaring Fork Valley resident since 1992, who at the time owned a pharmaceutical communications company – became a new career.
“My friends joked I went from selling drugs to booze,” she said.
With the help of her husband, Carey Shanks, and some friends and family as investors, the Marble Distillery was formed.
“After touring 30-plus distilleries in Colorado, California, Washington — because these states face water issues — we made a decision to distill sustainably and build the first of its kind, water energy thermal system,” she said.
New construction was the most accessible solution, and a spot on Main Street in a picturesque town was the dream package for Baker.
“We wanted a contemporary building, urban chic if you will, but we wanted historical details important to Carbondale. We incorporated the steel tower housing as a nod to Carbondale’s mining days, and the antique marble wall surrounding the patio and fireplace is a replica of the Marble mill site,” she said.
She also installed rooftop solar to capitalize on their net-zero efforts.
Marble Distillery opened with three products: vodka, Gingercello, and Moonlight EXpresso.
“Whiskey takes longer than a baby, and in the beginning while the whiskey was aging, those three spirits were available right away from our new build,” said Baker.
Creating the new green
Baker’s initiatives from the onset were foreign to many in her industry, but she pushed forward with the upmost “green” model she could find.
Marble Distillery’s green code rating is 83% lower than Carbondale’s standards, and they use 20% less energy than other distilleries.
The foundation of the distillery was eco-friendly. Now it was time to focus on water. A typical bottle of vodka takes 100 bottles of the water to produce. Marble Distillery’s vodka uses only one bottle of water to produce one bottle of vodka.
“We prioritize limiting waste as best we can with unique innovation: The water energy thermal system, or WETS, helps us achieve this goal,” she said.
A mainstream distillery will use millions of gallons of water throughout the distilling process, much of which ultimately goes to waste. With the WETS, which is essentially an energy storage technology, the distillery saves around four million gallons of water every year.
“We are in the business for water coalition, and in that, we found a better way to make vodka,” said Baker.
She is also in the business of sharing her sustainable efforts.
“I just came back from Lexington, Kentucky, where I was the only Colorado distiller,” she said. “I was invited to speak there on sustainability.”
Sourcing is the biggest struggle for companies, regardless of industry. This is where the carbon footprint truly expands for most organizations.
At Marble Distillery, everything is made on site and sourced locally. The grains are from high-elevation ranchers in Colorado. Locally-roasted coffee from Bonfire Coffee, peach brandy made from 100% Paonia peaches, and other Colorado-based products are key ingredients.
And the most obvious ingredient – her water – is also from Marble.
“We source second-generation barrels from Colorado wineries and distilleries, such as Alfred Eames, Montanya Rum, Laws Whiskey House, etc,” said Baker.
And, she said, people care.
“It seems in the craft industry that people are drinking less but drinking better. It’s also the age of know your farmer, know your food. The same goes for alcohol.”
If it does have to be trucked in, it’s consolidated with other loads delivered in the mountains.
Even the process is rooted, or quarried, from Marble. The vodka is filtered through marble from the local quarry.
“It makes a great filtration for spirits and, of course, our home is in Marble,” said Baker.
Natural and local elements seem to be the formula for success. Distilled Industry Spirits Council of the United States acknowledged her operation as the most sustainable of its kind in the world.
When Marble Distillery opened in 2015, they produced 500 cases of liquor. Today, they are producing 6,000 cases a year.
Someone’s drinking it.
In addition to the three original rollouts, Marble Distillery has added a bar of vodka infusions including pepper, vanilla, cucumber, honey (infused from honey hives located at The Orchard, a nearby Church with community garden), and cinnamon spice. Flavors rotate.
Its products can be found all over Colorado at liquor stores and dozens of restaurants across the state. In California, BevMo! carries the brand, and Baker is aiming to enter Florida. It’s also available online, direct to consumer, in 46 states.
The distillery is open Tuesday through Sunday. Call to book a tour or tasting and to check times with seasonality. Patrons are a mix of locals and tourists, as it’s right next to the Rio Grande Trail. Summer is busier than winter, and on weekends, there’s often live music.
There’s also a seasonal menu of light bites, and new this year, local Colorado craft beers and wines are also poured.
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