Spirits stirring in Basalt
BASALT – Plans for a new Basalt business are putting people in high spirits.
Two Woody Creek business partners intend to convert space vacated by a Basalt furniture store into a distillery and start producing vodka, gin, whiskey and bourbon by next spring.
Mark Kleckner, a partner and master distiller of the new business, said the potatoes for vodka will be grown at the Woody Creek ranch of his partner, Mary Scanlan.
“We’re bringing the potato back to commercial production in the valley,” Kleckner said.
The grains needed for other spirits will come from the Roaring Fork Valley, whenever possible. They are working out agreements with local farmers for the grain. If all the specialty grain cannot be grown in the valley, they will be able to find it elsewhere in Colorado.
“Our goal is to source 100 percent here in the valley,” Kleckner said.
Just as the microbrewery craze swept the country in the 1980s and ’90s, spirits are now being created to a greater degree at the local level.
“You’re kind of seeing micro-distillation,” Kleckner said. “People are becoming more and more interested in a locally created product.”
The new venture will be called Woody Creek Distillery, although it will call Basalt home. The partners have applied to the town of Basalt to open shop at 60 Sunset Drive in the Mid Valley Business Center, at the former site of Mountain Homefitters, near Valley Lumber.
The building is about 10,705 square feet, according to a development application. About 80 percent of the space will be used for production. There will also be a public tasting room and a retail outlet where customers can buy distilled spirits. Additionally, there will be interactive, educational displays on the potato-growing history of the Roaring Fork Valley and distillation in the Aspen area.
The distillers are working with a marketing firm to brand their products. Some of the names in contention are Basalt Bourbon, Roaring Fork Gin, Woody Creek Whiskey and Aspen Vodka.
An estimated 6,000 cases of spirits will be produced in the first partial year. Woody Creek Distillery’s partners hope to grow to a maximum annual production of 10,000 cases when the distillery is fully operational. The bread-and-butter business will be selling spirits wholesale to liquor distributors, which will sell it to liquor stores and restaurants.
Kleckner said the tasting room will be one of the nicest in North America, and they intend to make world-class spirits.
The partners scoured the valley looking for a perfect site for their stills. They were eyeing a space almost exactly the size of the old Mountain Homefitters store, which has been vacant for several months. They have a contract to purchase the building.
Kleckner said they choose the spot because it was available and met their size requirements. In hindsight, he’s glad they landed there because of its central location in the valley.
The Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously Nov. 1 to recommend approval of Woody Creek Distillery’s application to locate in the building. The Town Council will consider the request at its Nov. 22 meeting. Aspen land-use planner Alan Richman is handling the distiller’s application. He noted that the prior approvals and regulations within the business center didn’t allow distilling because of concerns over odors created during the fermenting process. Every property owner within the business center supported changes the regulations to allow the spirits distillery, Richman said.
He said it will make a great addition to Basalt. “It’s bringing a new kind of business into town,” Richman said.
If the approval process goes smoothly, Kleckner wants to begin production by April 1.
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In 1895, the fad sweeping Aspen for women was to dye their hair red.