Planning a ski or snowboard trip to Park City this winter and looking for something different to do while in town? Be sure to visit High West Distillery and Saloon, the first ski-in ski-out distillery in the country. Get ready to discover Utah’s little known whiskey history.
Built as a historic western-inspired saloon and restaurant, High West serves up local, sustainable and organic fare alongside its award-winning spirits. Intimate and family-friendly – yes, there is a kid’s menu – you will enjoy a taste of the west unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. The award-winning chefs there fuse classic techniques, regional and seasonal flavors, as well as High West Distillery’s very own crafted spirits to create innovative Western fare offered as small plates. Many of the dishes feature a sauce, herb, or grain directly related to production of High West distilled spirits. Traditional large plate options are available from braised beef short ribs to 3-bean and poblano chili to house smoked salmon to the good ol’ fashioned Highwest Burger.
Custom pairings of food with the beverage of your choice are also offered. While wine is always an option, the staff at High West wholeheartedly recommend the whiskey! After all, that’s what you came to a distillery for, right?
Distillery Tours – See & Taste How It’s Done
Go behind the scenes at High West Distillery & Saloon and discover just how these small-batch, mountain-crafted spirits and Rocky Mountain whiskeys are made. Visitors will see the original 250-gallon copper pot still where the spirits are carefully distilled, learn about what makes High West spirits so unique, and have a chance to sample these great-tasting products. Free tours are available daily and reservations are recommended.
During peak winter season, High West Distillery & Saloon does often book up quickly. So, if you don’t mind a bit of a jaunt up the hill from Park City, High West also offers tours at its second location, in Wanship, Utah. Located about 30 miles north of Park City, along US-189/US-40W, it is well worth the scenic drive to the newest and beautiful facility. Built in 2015, the Wanship distillery acts as a space for educational whiskey tasting, pairings and tours, and houses a 1600-gallon copper pot still. Light fare and small plates only are served in the tasting room at this location. Be sure to check out the quaint little gift shop while there.
High West began its humble roots with a small, 250-gallon still and saloon in a historic livery stable and garage. What was once a small operation in downtown Park City has grown to become an internationally-recognized brand with four unique locations. Besides the Distillery and Saloon in Park City and the Distillery in Wanship, the Nelson Cottage offers unique whiskey-paired dinners and the Saloon at the Salt Lake City airport allows for some last tastes of High West on the way out of town.
A Tid Bit of Utah’s Whiskey History
From 1825 to 1840, what has become known in history as a “rendezvous” was an annual summer gathering of mountain men to exchange pelts for supplies. Alcohol was not one of the “supplies” at the first rendezvous in Wyoming, which lasted only a day. This oversight was corrected with a generous supply of whiskey at the second rendezvous in Utah’s Cache Valley, creating a month long shindig that was so popular the mountain men repeated it as an annual event.
Since that time, as the first settlers arrived in Utah, distilling became a way of life because alcohol was a primary medicine, as well as a way to keep food from spoiling. By 1857, Founder of the Mormon and Church of the Latter Day Saint movement Brigham Young was in absolute control of everything in Utah. Saloons were so conspicuous in Salt Lake City that Main Street, south of 2nd South became known as “Whiskey Street.”
Up until 1870, it is unknown just how many distilleries existed in Utah, but there certainly was no scarcity. Between 1862, when the internal revenue system went into place, and 1869 – the advent of the railroad – records show there were 37 distilleries, all owned by Mormons and Brigham Young himself. The last known legal distillery still in Utah ceased operation in 1870. In the late 1860’s prospectors founded Park City and made it one of the richest silver mining towns in the West. Park City became incorporated in 1884 and once again, the best watering hole in Utah. Then, in 1933, Utah as a state became the 36th state to vote against the 18th Amendment and end Prohibition.
High West’s Place in Utah’s Whiskey History
You may ne wondering, “Where does High West Distillery fit into all this bit of history?” In 2006, High West Distillery and Saloon became Utah’s first legal distillery since 1870. High West was founded in 2006 by David Perkins and his wife, Jane. A former biochemist, David was inspired to open his own distillery after seeing the parallels between the fermentation and distilling process and his own work in biochemistry during a trip to the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky. In 2004, David and his family relocated to Park City to begin their new venture. Two years later, High West opened its doors in Park City and the rest, as they say, is history.
High West’s products have since received numerous accolades and awards. In 2011, Whisky Advocate, America’s leading whiskey magazine, named High West its “Whiskey Pioneer of the Year.” Swing by either distillery in Park City or Wanship to take an educational whiskey tour and if you’re feeling adventurous, a whiskey tasting too!