After an afternoon of trail running under the Utah sun last week, the first refreshing sip of my Clementine at the High West Distillery told me I had come to the right place to end my day in the mountains. The Clementine, a margarita made with whiskey, is a High West original. It’s a small taste of the beverages and victuals that deliver the flavors of the Wild West with modern flair.
High West is located a block from Main Street in downtown Park City, Utah, in an adapted Victorian house and an old garage, both in the National Register for Historic Places. These buildings bookend the copper still, which can be seen from the sidewalk through windows overlooking the patio. Cocktails created by bartenders and regulars make the house spirits shine, and the creativity and flavor carry over to the food. My favorites were the Kentucky whiskey beer cheese, Idaho elk and chanterelle mushrooms, and bacon wrapped Delta blue shrimp. The grand finale was the High West Grillswith, a grilled Krispy Kreme donut with cinnamon dust and whiskey vanilla ice cream.
The Clementine was a tasty distraction during the distillery tour—maybe too tasty, since only a few facts shared by proprietor David West stuck with me. Fortunately, he was available for a remedial phone call. Keep reading for basic facts about whiskey from a man who turned his passion into vocation. High West offers a selection of small batch aged whiskey, un-aged silver whiskey, and vodkas.
Whiskey is basically beer. That’s how it starts life. You boil beer, boil the alcohol off, and that’s whiskey.
Bourbon isn’t just made in Kentucky. Everyone thinks if you’re making bourbon, it has to be made it Kentucky, but it just has to be made in the United States.
Different whiskeys just use different grains. Bourbon uses corn, scotch uses barley, and rye uses rye.
Like champagne or tequila, every country has its own quaff. We make a scotch here, we just can’t call it a scotch. It’s called malt whiskey, but it’s basically the same thing.
Whiskey gets its color from the barrel. Whiskey or rum or tequila—they all get the color from the barrel. We decided to come out with an un-aged whiskey, but we couldn’t call it whiskey without putting it through a barrel. So we put it in a barrel and take it right out. —Olivia Dwyer