Aspen Times Weekly: Marble Spirit | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Times Weekly: Marble Spirit

by Amiee White Beazley

It's a been a little over four months since Marble Distilling Company opened its doors on Main Street in Carbondale, and according to distiller and co-owner Connie Baker, "It's been crazy," she says, "crazy — great!"

Making three products — Crystal River Vodka 80, made with an original blend of all-natural Colorado white wheat and malted barley; Moonlight Expresso, a Baker family liqueur recipe made with cold brew coffee from Carbondale's Bonfire Coffee Co.; and Gingercello, a modern adaptation of the Italian lemon classic using fresh cut ginger and lemon zest — Baker has almost doubled her production recently to keep up with the demand.

IN DEMAND

Distilled in "Hazel," a 250-gallon Vendome copper pot still, these are first and only spirits in the world known to be filtered through marble pieces — straight from the Yule Quarry, 20 miles down the road in the town of Marble, where Baker lives and where the distillery gets its name. (The spirits feature an image of the Lincoln Memorial, made with marble from the Yule Quarry.) Marble, as it turns out, has many of the same qualities of carbon, says Baker, providing a soft, round mouthfeel to the spirits.

"It's been wildly popular," says Baker of MDC's offerings, which are now available in 60 restaurants and retail stores in the Roaring Fork Valley, "particularly the Moonlight Expresso and Gingercello. I think people like them because they are different, but they are still locally sourced, locally made and (Expresso is) made with my mom's recipe."

MDC is the second distillery in the Roaring Fork Valley, after Woody Creek Distillers opened its doors in 2013. But, says Baker, the two distilleries and the products with they create are very different, and fill separate niches.

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"Woody Creek Distillers makes amazing potato vodka with a completely different taste profile from our Crystal River Vodka 80, which is grain-based," she explains. "We don't see Woody Creek, along with the 50-plus other craft distilleries in Colorado, as competition. In fact, Woody Creek and others have graciously offered insight and expertise to MDC as a start-up."

To handle the rapidly increasing demand for product, Marble Distilling recently recruited longtime real estate and development executive Keith Marlow to head up sales and marketing. He moved across the street and across industries from Timbers Resorts' Carbondale headquarters, where he was the Director of Sales to MDC in July.

"The opportunity came in to be my own boss and work with a start-up business, and that was exciting for me," he says. "I took my talents from Timbers and moved them to a new industry. And these people (at MDC) are such close friends I consider them family."

In fact, some are. Marlow's wife, Michelle, is an original partner-investor in MDC and now leads the distillery's public relations and special events, of which there have been many including private parties on the second floor "part-io," and weddings that have booked the entire distillery and inn. "We have a lot of great events coming up in the next few weeks, from a recently Halloween Party to The Marble Throwdown on Nov. 14 — an 'off-season, off-menu cocktail comp' where event participants will cruise participating restaurants on Main Street Carbondale and taste local bartender creations with MDC spirits. Not only will the crowd's favorite drink appear on MDC's new winter Tasting Room menu, the bartender will earn a well-deserved night at The Distillery Inn."

GET A TASTE

The Tasting Room is prime spot for gathering, where people can sip on a flight of spirits, handcrafted cocktails and charcuterie boards made with products from Avalanche Cheese. Managed by Carey Shanks — Baker's husband and assistant distiller — the Tasting Room features a beautiful marble bar, cut from a single slab mined from the Yule Quarry and a window on which to peek in on the six-plated distilling column, "Hazel."

Soon, the team will begin inviting people to join its members-only Barrel Club, where members will have their very own "baby" oak whiskey barrel and enjoy exclusive access to early whiskey and bourbon releases, and other special events and discounts on rooms at the Inn, in addition to access to the private Barrel Club Bar & Lounge off the public tasting room.

"The club will be a relaxed atmosphere where people can bring clients, friends, family to taste their whiskey as it ages and enjoy a private setting and preferred rates on MDC offerings and at The Distillery Inn," says Baker.

Now available in approximately 100 venues around Colorado, every week Marlow is adding seven to 10 new locations around the state that are selling or serving Marble Distilling products, which according to Mattias Horseman, head bartender at Chef's Club in Aspen, his guests are enthusiastically embracing. Horseman has been using both Marble Distilling's vodka and Moonlight Expresso on its high-end cocktail menu.

"It's great for cocktails and martinis," he says of Marble's vodka. "The new trend is simple, three to four, ingredient cocktails and Marble's vodka has a lot of flavor for vodka. To see two of the best vodkas in the country at the moment coming out of our little valley (from Marble and Woody Creek) is amazing. As for the Moonlight Expresso, people have been going wild over it. It's less sugary than Kahlua and has a good coffee flavor. We've been using it in an espresso martini made with coconut water and people have been going nuts."

With demand high and popularity growing, Marble is prime for distribution expansion, but the Marble team is dedicated to taking things slowly and keeping the quality of its products high.

"Eventually the goal is to expand beyond the state," says Marlow, "We've gotten a lot of requests, but the focus right now is to keep our pipeline supplied and on track with our goals."

He is focused on building relationships with buyers and consumers around the state. He and his small team have not brought on a distributor, but rather deliver every case by hand.

"I want to be out there," he says. "I love driving around the state, meeting people, telling them about what we do here. Letting them taste the spirits and sharing our story of sustainability."

SUSTAINABLE SIPPING

After all, MDC's sustainability story is groundbreaking. Already recognized by CLEER, CORE and winning Randy Udall's TRUE Pioneer Grant for its green building practices, sourcing local grains and sending stillage to Carbondale ranchers, the distillery is working to become a zero-waste operation thanks to a system of its own design — WETS, or Water Energy Thermal Storage or (WETS) — that saves millions gallons of water per year.

WETS works in two ways — energy and water. The system enables MDC to capture hot distillation water for reuse in heating the building, heating domestic hot water and eliminates hot water discharge to the town treatment system. WETS also cools the building, eliminating the need for a traditional air-conditioning system. It is the first craft distillery in the United States to recapture 100 percent of its process water and harvest the energy from the wastewater, realizing an annual savings of more than 4 million gallons of water and 1.9 billion BTUs (enough energy to power 20 Carbondale homes.)

In recognition of their work to help distilleries become more environmentally friendly, in September MDC was awarded close to $197,500 in a USDA Rural Energy Grant for the launch of WETS. Baker is preparing to share this green technology with other distillers, as she submitted the data to be a featured speaker at the upcoming American Craft Spirits conference.

"We love crafting spirits and it's great meeting people and having the distillery be a place where people can feel comfortable and gather," says Baker, who was trained at the Dry Fly Distilling Institute before opening MDC, "but it's not just about that. We want to help save the environment, and we know what our responsibility is as people and as a company to do that."

With sales on the rise, an inn to welcome guests to Carbondale and advances in sustainability and whiskey and gin on their way in 2016, it appears Marble Distilling is only destined for success.

"The biggest surprise has been the more than warm welcome from locals," says Baker. "I think they are excited for a new fun place to go and with our spirits being made in their town using so much from Colorado, they've really supported us. People are really excited and we hoped they would be, but the reception has been more than we could have imagined."

THE DISTILLERY INN

Carbondale’s first luxury accommodations also happen to be the only place in the world where guests can sleep inside a distillery. Located on the second floor of the MDC, The Distillery Inn has been almost fully booked since it opened in June. It features five king-sized, dog-friendly rooms, finished with high-quality Italian linens, organic bath amenities from Ranch Organics and Carbondale’s own Osmia Organics, fireplaces and private balconies, all with views of Mount Sopris. Managed by another member of the family, Baker’s sister-in-law, Dorian DiPangrazio, the Inn has brought visitors and patrons to Carbondale, some of whom said they had no idea Main Street even existed. Rates at The Distillery Inn begin at $199 per night and can be booked directly on their website.

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