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MicroShiner Spring2013

Definitive Guide to the World of Craft Spirits






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Kings County Distillery

Tours and Tastings Every Saturday 2:30 to 5:30 Brooklyn Navy Yard, Bldg 121 Sands Street Gate Brooklyn, NYC

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contents 2013 spring

Letter From The Publisher Drinking Music Crafting Cocktails—Bartender Interview The Oregon Artisan Spirits Tasting Kings County Distillery Vilya Spirits Ploughboy—Farm Fresh New Launches—Woods & Still Cellars

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Publisher Design Director Staff Contributors

Cobey Williamson Alex Vitti Nels A. Wroe Luc Nadeau Kimberly Naslund

Working Dog Media, LLC 1406 Summerdale Rd Corvallis, MT 59828 Š2013 All rights reserved. The contents of this magazine cannot be duplicated without the prior written consent of the owner. The views contained within the contents of MicroShiner Magazine do not necessarily reflect the views of its owners or staff.

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Stephen Paulsen

Brenda Ahearn

Marisa Lyon

Stephen Paulsen is a writer, journalist and all-around bum from Houston, Texas. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon—or so the legend goes.

Brenda Ahearn is an award winning photojournalist currently working with the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell, Montana. Her work has appeared nationally in USA Today,The New York Times and The Washington Post., among others.

Marisa is a writer living on the beach in NJ. Her passions include travelling, music, photography, and thought-provoking words. When she’s not working as an entertainment editor or writing for multiple music websites, she can most likely be found at the beach or an outdoor music festival.

Joshua Kelly

Jeffrey Mattson

Michael Marquand

Joshua is an undergraduate Theatre student in Northwest Montana who has spent the last few years working as a writer and Art Director in Flathead. His new book was just released through Dangerous Little Books this past April and he is proud to be a contributing writer for MicroShiner as his new enthusiasm for spirits and distilling gains momentum.

Jeffrey is a fourth year optometry student at Pacific University with a not-so-secret obsession for music. Sketches, avid home recording, guitar noodling saturated in delay, and secret songwriting are all in a day’s work when he is not making sure people can see 20/20 and beyond.

Michael is a freelance photographer from Seattle, WA, now living and working in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. His work includes a focus on travel, people, culture and food. He has been published in Conde Nast Traveler, El Pais magazine, Harpers Bazaar Brazil, and Bloomberg Businessweek, among others. He also enjoys hiking, snowboarding and a well-aged whiskey. | PAGE7

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Letter from PUBLISHER



Spring is the season of opportunity. It is the time of year that promises new life, when seeds that have lain dormant through their winter slumber, sustained by little more than dreams and possibility, launch forth from their protective womb and reach for the skies. Old skins are shed, and new forms assumed. Fledglings take wing and test their ability to fly. With a flush of new growth, Nature’s great potential is realized and placed boldly on display. There is something on the rise, growing just beneath the surface. Like the shoots that appear first to signify the changing season, we see glimpses of it in the new launches featured in this issue, Still and Woods. We see it in the evolution of Ridge Distillery into Vilya Spirits. We see it in the shifting paradigm exemplified by businesses such as Ploughboy and hear it echoed in the words of featured bartender Justin Lavenue when he says, “I love the process.” We are in the spring of the craft revolution. The seeds of small scale production, fashioned at the hands of skilled craftsmen and women as an expression of their personal commitment to quality and unique character, have been sown and taken root. Everywhere one cares to look, you’ll find them popping up like the first green growth of spring. There is something exciting about the springtime, and as you look through the pages of this issue of our magazine, I believe you will find something to be excited about here as well. Cobey Williamson Publisher

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Drinking Music Music and spirits are inextricably intertwined. Whether it’s the Rat Pack & martinis, the Jazz Age and bathtub gin, saloon whiskey and a player piano, or just pickin’ on the porch with a jar of shine, where you find one, you will likely find the other. So many analogies exist between the two that we felt, as a magazine about craft and spirits, inclined - nay almost obliged to dedicate some space to music. Music is a craft. Doing it well depends on bringing a number of elements together in just the right proportions, and as with crafting spirits the resultant product is always greater than the sum of its parts. Differences in equipment, training, ingredients, recipes are reflected in subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, variations in character, flavor, tenor, and tone. Each begins with a handful of raw material that, through a practiced and perfected process, culminates in a refined and handcrafted product, often for no greater purpose than sheer enjoyment. Just as it is in the spirits business, the music market is awash with corporate product. Artists are groomed and selected based on one thing: their ability to sell records. All

of the coarseness and irregularity is eliminated, and much of the nuance and the intangible lost. To paraphrase Neil Young at the onset of the digital age, the real music lives between the 0 and 1. In that regard, and in keeping with the theme of this publication, what we hope to offer you here is that space between the step and the curve that is so important, yet often goes overlooked. Here we hope to share some bands and music that you might just find playing onstage in your local tasting room or watering hole. Here, as with the micro-distilleries we focus on, you just might happen upon someone you know, and together enjoy a little Drinking Music.

Fletcher C. Johnson Salutations By Jeff Mattson With hints of 60’s, surf, and rockabilly, Fletcher C. Johnson is a fresh release from the over production hounding the music industry. Fletcher has a knack for making his music feel nostalgic. Like celebrating a high school football game win, with your best girl, over a malt and a burger, something like that. Nothing too fancy, a couple bright and jangly guitars, some bouncy bass lines, moments of retro synths, and the necessary overdriven guitar solos that all rock should require. Ex-

pect these guys at your backyard party to kick off spring in Cali. Fletcher and his bandmates exude an Average Joe quality with their authentic brand of rock. The slightly nasal vocals aren’t quite polished, but they put a positive spin on all lyrical themes, keeping them captivating. These are just a couple dudes doing what they love, and hoping you’re into it as well. Spring spirits, sunshine, and nostalgia at their best. Give the tracks “Call Me” and “Wasted Boys” a spin.

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The Lower 48 Where All Maps End

By Jeff Mattson It seems rather appropriate to be writing from Alaska about a band called The Lower 48. A little band from Minneapolis, The Lower 48 are now hard at work in the Portland, Oregon area and their infectious brand of folk influenced rock quite deserving of exposure. Co-ed vocal harmonies rising from the two lead vocalists, Ben and Sarah, force you to hope they are star crossed lovers if only to make the supernal melodies that much more authentic. Sarah possesses a deep

and endearingly languid voice with lyrical offerings of love lost and love anew, which Ben balances justly with answers and requital. These two crooners float on a gentle stream of folk chord progressions, tender acoustic guitars, and an Americana flavor imparted by selective harmonica and banjo.Their music strikes me as a great supplement to a reading of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” Recommended tracks include “I’m On My Way (Almost)” and “Into The Woods.”




By Jeff Mattson XXYYXX is the stage name of Marcel Everett, a producer/electronic artist from Florida. Homemade synthesizers, disembodied compression driven vocals, lo-fi production, not what you’d expect out of electronica these days. This is DIY made modern. Oh and he’s young, clocking in at a cool 17 years old. He almost makes you feel bad about your current endeavors, or inspires you to do more if you’re a glass half full type. File this

next to your James Blake records and plug in with your best subs; you’ll want to feel the bass on this one. These are some spacey jams; Miles Davis would be proud of the space this kid creates. Modest amounts of reverb cloud the beats and deep sinister synths drop these tracks right into a euphoric microcosm. A dizzying array of vocal samples compressed beyond recognition become their own timbrel tool, lending an almost metaphysical sense

of humanity to the sound if you can accept that contradiction. TLC’s “No Scrubs” is even sampled back from the annals of popdom on the track “Good Enough,” one of my personal favorites. Other favorites include “Breeze”, “About You” and my absolute favorite of the album “Alone”. Recommended in a low lit room with an immature spirit. | PAGE13

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hen I first met Justin Lavenue he was a very young and enthusiastic bartender eager to learn all he could and try new spirits. As he begins making my drink today I’m impressed by his enthusiasm, not for the latest things, but for the history of classic cocktails like the Negroni & Vieux Carré. By his own account he hasn’t always geeked out on history, “but alcohol has had its hand in so much of not only our nation’s but the world’s history, in studying cocktails and spirits you inevitably learn a lot about the past.” As he muddles mint & cucumbers in lime juice, I find myself unsure that this drink is going to live up to its name “The Violet Haze.” A comprehensive understanding of the traditional methods of making spirits serves him well but it hasn’t closed his mind toward the innovations of the craft spirit movement. “I’m a big fan of complex spirits that don’t necessarily

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fit their own bill. One of my favorite whiskies is St. George’s Single Malt whiskey, which uses 100% malted barley in its grain bill and then ages it in 4 different types of oak barrels.” The last couple of years that he’s spent bartending at The Bitter Bar in Boulder, Colorado have groomed Justin to understand the attention to detail and skill that go into handcrafting anything. “I love the process that goes into making cocktails. Every drink, including Whiskey-Cokes, have a specific way that they should be made in order to maximize their flavor and, in turn, their drinker’s satisfaction. On the same note, I hate when the process and the care taken to make your average craft cocktail goes

unnoticed and unappreciated by its consumer. It’s disheartening.” His frustration seems warranted, as he finishes dry-shaking the concoction. “It’s in order to emulsify the egg white,” he explains. As he adds ice to the mixture and shakes it again, it’s clear that he understands that, like great spirits, great cocktails don’t just happen. That being said, he doesn’t believe small batch producers deserve accolades for producing mediocre spirits. “I would like to see less emphasis placed on the spirit simply being small batch and more emphasis on its taste and what it offers to its customers.” He double strains the billowy drink into a coupe glass and it

embodies it’s name. As I take the first sip, the refreshing cucumber and mint challenge the creamy foam from the egg white. The delicate contrast seems like a fitting portrayal of the contrast between cherished classic cocktails and the inspired creations of today’s bartenders.

The Violet Haze 2 Cucumber slices 3 Mint sprigs 2 oz. Leopold Bros Gin ½ oz. Crème de Violette ½ oz. Lavender syrup ½ oz. Lime juice 3 dashes Orange bitters 1 Egg white

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The Oregon Artisan

SPIRITS TASTING North America’s Largest International Tasting of Artisan Spirits:

TOAST Stephen Paulsen

n the third floor of the Portland world trade center, the glass walls stop short of high, modernist ceilings. The effect is a gap that opens up to the elements—onto dreary, late March elements, in the case of this particular weekend. The third floor convention hall is effectively an outdoor space, save a few ceiling-mounted radiators that desperately try to heat the room from above. But as hundreds of merry, slightly-tipsy souls filled the room—some craftsmen, others patrons, but all united in their love of micro spirits—this open-air aspect was quickly obscured. The occasion was the third annual TOAST (The Oregon Artisan Sprits Tasting) convention, organized each year by the Oregon Distillers Guild in the hopes of promoting Oregon “as the premier tourist destination for spirit aficionados.” To this end, TOAST has become the country’s largest exposition of both artisan spir-

its and of all things spirit-related, from mixers and drinking hor d’oeuvres to miniature stills and glassware. For this reason, it would be a mistake to view TOAST merely as a tasting event. Vendors discussed their distillation techniques, methodologies and ideologies with a highly refreshing level of detail, far removed from the meaningless pontifications one all too often hears about alcohol. A high level of focus was placed on craftsmanship, as exemplified by the booth for Int’l Spirits and Specialties (sic), an aptlynamed producer of high-quality, oldfashioned stills. These elegant, copper stills are the ideal size for personal or test batches and, in fact, many of the other vendors proudly displayed stills from the company, which they professed to use themselves. At the same time there was, of course, plenty to taste. The samples were astonishing, not only in quality but in scope. After all, while some ven-

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dors focused solely on their ingredients and distillation techniques, others put greater emphasis on their creative infusions and mixes. 4 Spirits, a small distilling company based out of Corvallis, falls firmly into the first camp. Do not be dissuaded by the cheeky cartoon artwork: 4 Spirits filters their vodka over four days, creating a product that is completely odorless—or, as they put it, “martini-grade.” Marketed either as “Slaptail Vodka” (decorated with a cartoon badger) or as “Webtail Vodka” (adorned with a cartoon duck), this is the paragon of smooth vodka, despite what the packaging

may lead you to believe. Across the room, Dry Fly Distilling shared their whiskey and gin with a small crowd. They dub themselves as a “grain to glass” and “true farm to

In fact, Dry Fly distillery imports only their juniper. This attention to ingredients stood out clearly, especially in their woody, full-bodied whiskey. The Stein Distillery expressed a similiar ethos, stressing the importance of local ingredients. The berries used to produce their minimally-infused vodkas (which contain only vodka, berries, and syrup) all come from the Coastal Range or Willamette Valley. The resulting vodkas captured the flavor profile of their individual berries without recourse to syrupy sweetness. Stein Distillery grows rye, wheat, and barley for itself, and acquires corn from relatives. On the other hand, certain

Oregon: “the premier

tourist destination for spirit aficionados.” bottle outfit,” and they have earned both designations. When Dry Fly was founded seven years ago, they helped set the standards for Washington state law, which require that 51% of ingredients must be Washington-grown in order to qualify as a “craft distiller.”

vendors instead focused the audience’s attention on their infusion methods, which they were eager to share—within reason. Eastside Distilling stressed how their Below Deck Coffee Rum differs from most: Coffee beans are infused directly into the rum, as opposed to many coffee liquors and liqueurs, which simply include brewed coffee. It was not hard to taste the difference. A few booths down, New PAGE30 |

Deal Distillery touted their ginger liqueur, made out of pure ginger, raw sugar, agave syrup and a secret spirit. It works well as a bourbon/whiskey mixer or on its own over ice, as the water helps release the flavors. Although the spirit was fiery and intense, it also contained a remarkable degree of ginger freshness. Across the aisle, Sub Rosa had gone the whole nine yards, creating subtle, complex cocktails out of » photo by Josh Dinn

intricate infusions. The “French twist” combines their tarragon vodka with yellow chartreuse, agave syrup and lemon. And their intricate saffron vodka—which includes cumin, coriander, black pepper, ginger and saffron, to name a few—was served with pineapple juice and dried chipotle in a “Mexican standoff.” Then, of course, there were those who simply knew their liquor, but were not producers themselves.

The broker A Hardy USA had imported liquors from across the globe, such as Fratello, a sumptuous hazelnut liqueur from Italy, or the outrageously good Rumchata, a pre-mixed blend of rum and horchata. But even aside from these exotic imports, the convention was strikingly cosmopolitan. The Diep 9 Company, for instance, had made the trek from Belgium to spread the word about genever, a Belgian liquor that the

first gin recipes were later based on. The Chinese Ly family, meanwhile, had taken a more indirect sort of pilgrimage, which eventually led them to America in 1978. The family settled in Wilsonville, Oregon, where they began distilling a generations-old recipe of baijiu, a Chinese rice liquor that is similar in production to moonshine, but with a flavor somewhere between pure grain spirits and gin. Only after neighbors informed the Ly family

that their operation was illegal did the Ly family enter the alcohol business, establishing Vinn, the first maker of baijiu in the United States. The non-alcoholic samples were also noteworthy. Cozy Cabins debuted their “Hot Buttered Yum,� a rich, ice cream-based mix for buttered rum. Oliver’s Gourmet hawked a variety of unique and high-quality pickles, including green beans, okra and asparagus, to say nothing of the

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olives, which were stuffed with delicacies such as anchovies. And Sage & Sea provided samples of their various sipping vinegars, which are sourced almost entirely from within 200 miles of Portland, where the company is based (only the ginger and citrus are imported). Two vinegars in particular deserve mention: The apple/pear/ginger, which works with whiskey, and their sublime nectarine vinegar, which reputedly mixes especially well with any hot pepper vodka. In the end, however, these are merely the highlights of TOAST, and any effort to tease out the ‘winners’ of this year’s event would perhaps be missing the point. TOAST is not a competition, but a celebration of spirit culture—a toast, if you will, to craftsmanship. It was clear this culture requires collaboration and camaraderie to thrive, and as the Saturday festivities drew to a close, the vendors who milled about offering one another words of encouragement were a poignant reminder of that fact.

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The Essence of Craft Culture


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ucked away among a Brooklyn Navy yard, in the shadow of the Manhattan skyline, sits a charming, century old brick building. From the outside, it could be anything. An accounting office? Or possibly a garment factory? In fact, it’s been used for both. Today, this hidden gem is home to New York’s oldest operating whiskey distiller y. The first to open since Prohibition, Kings County Distiller y is paving the way for New York’s micro-distilled culture, giving it a much needed facelift after a lengthy drought.

From the moment I walked through the door there was a feeling of ambient authenticity. I was immediately greeted by the scent of sweet yeast floating through the air and the purring of two friendly cats encircling my legs, welcoming me to their domain. The ceiling high windows flooded the main floor with natural light, giving way to a

small courtyard for seasonally grown barley and corn. Commanding the center of the room were two brand

new, custom made copper stills, serving as the glistening focal point. A smile on the face of Colin Spoelman, one of two founders of Kings County Distillery, came through the door. Starting with a detailed tour, he explained how the five small metal stills currently humming away produce about 16 gallons of whiskey a day. Soon they would begin operating the two towering, custom made Scottish stills, producing close to twice that amount. His face lit up often as he highlighted each intricate step and important detail of the process, as if it was

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not only me who was learning it for the first time, but himself as well. Colin had a fascination with whiskey by the time he was fourteen. He shared with me his story of growing up in a dry county in southeastern Kentucky. Chuckling, he recalled his high school days of visiting a neighborhood home known for smuggling liquor. “You would give your order and they would bring it car side, similar to a drive-up window,” as he described it. The liquor

order would often involve the traditional Kentucky delicacy, Moonshine. Little did he know at the time, his long-term relationship with whiskey had begun. After graduating from Yale and moving to Brooklyn, Colin’s genuine love for whiskey intrigued him to make his own. It’s been a hands-on approach right from the start. He bought a single, 8 ounce still online and through many bouts of trial and error and taste-testing on friends at

parties, he began to perfect his craft. Kings County Distillery was first born right out of that Brooklyn apartment, with help from Colin’s roommate and distiller y cofounder, David Haskell. Rich not only in flavor, but also in history, the distillery is home to the “Booz-eum.” Tattered brick walls adorned with posters, newspaper clippings and photos of Prohibition New York serve as a life-size timeline. “Irish distillers would illegally make

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whiskey right outside these gates,” Colin explained, referring to the naval gates I’d entered upon arrival. He went on to describe the history of rioting, as officers often raided the Brooklyn neighborhoods, seizing both the culprits and illegal liquor, dumping it into the streets. From the Boozeum we made our way to the bourbon barrel room. As the large wooden door swung open, the delicious, honeyed scent of

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aging bourbon immediately tickled my nose, tempting every sense to lust after a taste of its sweetness. Close to 400 charred oak barrels lined the walls and several rows throughout the room. Each was labeled by date to invite the taste testing to begin after an eighteen month aging period. Upon finishing our tour, Colin led the way back to the tasting room. Clear glass bottles with simple labels decorated the walls, giving way » photo by Michael Marquand

to their anything-but-simple treasures inside. Grabbing two snifters, he poured samples of the clear, un-aged corn- whiskey into each. It was my first experience with moonshine. Growing up in New Jersey, it isn’t exactly available on every street corner. The award winning whisky was a perfect combination of light and sweet, yet fiery. For my first taste, it certainly set the bar high. We also sampled the chocolate whiskey. As Colin mentioned,

it’s a favorite around Valentine’s Day, with subtle hints of ch o c o l ate that delight the palate but don’t overwhelm the lush, traditional whiskey taste. Finally came my favorite part of the day. Colin poured two slightly larger than taste-size samples of the amber-colored liquor. With a quick

swirl, I took in the thick, luscious aroma, closing my eyes to truly indulge myself. Even whilst knowing the intricate process and care behind perfecting each drop of bourbon, it still managed to exceed my every expectation.

Ultra-smooth with zesty hints of cinnamon, nu t m e g and bl a c k pepper that comp l i mented each other so effortlessly, it was as if the barrel had come with its own specific timer. I can honestly say I would have stayed there sipping the dreamy elixir for the rest of the afternoon if I could. And I am certain

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had I asked, Colin would have been more than happy to indulge me. Kings County Distillery embodies the essence of craft culture and the idea of quality over quantity. Focusing on three products–moonshine, bourbon and chocolate whiskey–has given Colin and company a chance to truly perfect each, finding a flawless process and sublime mix of ingredients to make whiskey the entire 10 person team can be proud of.

On weekends, the distillery opens its doors to friends and neighbors, welcoming tours and tastings.They rely on organic, locally grown corn from the Finger Lakes, and don’t let anything go to waste; recycling the used corn for local farm animals and vegetation. Even their spent-grain compost operation makes use of wood from trees destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, bringing a feeling of community to not only the product, but the entire process.

Though Kings County Distillery is a business, its true objective runs much deeper than that. It’s a love of whiskey and a passion for spirit making. It’s a sense of integrity through small operation and superior craftsmanship. It’s about sharing story and bringing a sense of community to Brooklyn. This philosophy is poured into the very spirits that flow through the distillery and one that can be tasted in each drop that sweetens the lips.

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Ridge Distillery springs anew as



idge Distillery, for its short time in business, has already risen to impressive stature in the absinthe world. With four-anda-half star reviews from American Wine and Spirits, a gold medal from the World Spirits convention in 2012 for their gin, and continuous positive commentary from enthusiasts all over the globe, Joe and Julie Legate have achieved a great deal of success. As a long-time friend and a lover of their work, I consider myself privileged in having watched them grow and create what started with a small dream—and a sprig of wormwood. When Julie Legate realized that their entire property west of Kalispell, Montana, was literally teeming

with grand wormwood, the long-loved absinthe enthusiast within her began to grow more vocal. Both she and her husband had adored the French spirit for quite a long while and had played with the idea of distilling a bit in their free time, but finding a wealth of the raw material for this classic beverage surrounding them seemed to fuel their inspiration. Ridge Distillery was soon growing with the same vivacity as the fragrant weed, and within a few short years they had established a solid business and a complex, enrapturing product. The beauty, Jules says, is in the details—in the botanicals. Meandering through the well-laid plots between towering ponderosas, wherein were meticulously

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planted the herbs for the next season of harvest, I was taken aback by the sudden botanical wonder of it all. Beneath my feet were shoots of wormwood, costmary, genipi, and lemon balm, filling the crisp spring air with heady ambrosia. Ridge grows a vast

amount of their own herbal ingredients for their absinthe and gin, which gives them more than autonomous craftsmanship over the final product—it allows them to give it their own personal fingerprint. As Jules took me through a

walk in the garden, I was struck by just how many gorgeous summers I had spent there in times past, having never noticed the floral world tickling my senses. One could see where the shoots of wormwood and the leaves of costmary reigned, filling the air with

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“We’re going to keep doing what we LOVE”

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pungent fragrances. As intoxicating as the afternoon was, Jules talked of the necessity of botanical care in the distillery. “Giving the product ingredients we grow ourselves gives us complete control over the formula—we get to see the quality in the smallest parts of the products as well as the larger. We have also been really fortunate: the harvest has yielded enough ingredients that if we were to have a bad year, we could easily get through another season of production.” Ridge’s notoriety has given inspiration to some change as well. After deciding that the name is too generic in a circle where ‘ridge’ is a commonly used label name that can’t be copyrighted, the Legates have settled on rebranding the distillery as Vilya

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Spirits—giving homage to the gardens that have so bounteously supported their endeavors. Vilya are the Slavic renditions of wood nymphs, spritely faeries that inhabit the wilderness. The incessant nerd in me couldn’t help but point out that Vilya is also the name of the greatest of Three Elven Rings in Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings,  to which Julie laughed. Still, the comparison was apropos, as the new label will remain the same in everything but name, and Vilya Spirits should be easily found by those looking for the exceptional products from Ridge that they have loved in times past. “We’re going to keep doing what we love,” Joe said with his usual, impish grin. “It’s just our luck that we are supported by people who love it, too.”  

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Nels A. Wroe Not many grocery stores today attract customers with an open, inviting, and appetizing atmosphere. Ploughboy is a vivid exception. This small, local foods shop in downtown Salida, Colorado sits across the street from a large Safeway store, warmly welcoming patrons with roll-up doors thrown wide, a charming patio, and creative displays reminiscent of markets and grocers of days past. Turns out the location isn’t coincidental. The founders of Ploughboy, Kerry and David Nelson, thoughtfully chose the location of their local foods store to complement – and contrast – the food-buying foot traffic in this central Colorado town of around 5,300 people. Ploughboy is a true grocery store (not a specialty or gourmet store) with two objectives: bring local Colorado foods to the community, and help support and build local employment in Salida and surrounding

economies. The store is a far cry from the typical specialty or gourmet food shops that cater to the high-end farmer’s market crowd. Every product in the store is legitimately ‘real food’ and is sourced within the state, the closer the better. Shelves are loaded with inseason produce (being April, this is not an easy task in the high Rockies) and foodstuffs, each shelf marked with the name of the producer and the mileage from Salida. The store is equipped with a full commercial kitchen and deli operation, and the Salida Bread Company entices customers to linger at the register with samples and the fragrance of fresh-baked breads straight from the oven. Free samples and recipes are always available at the front counter, each dish made fresh from the products on the shelves. Shoppers are often delighted to discover that prices for most of the products on the shelves are quite

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reasonable - even competitive – particularly for the staple foods. “That is absolutely by design,” says Kerry, noting that the vision of their store is to bring real food to a whole new level of accessibility. “The recent growth in Farmer’s Markets is great, but it still only captures maybe 1% of the population on a consistent basis. We want to increase that to 10%, and believe that it is as much about improving peoples’ lives through the foods they eat as it is making local foods accessible to the community.”

She points out that it is a mix of price (we are used to exceptionally low food prices at the mainstream grocers), physical access (Farmer’s

Markets are great, but are often only once per week and require a special trip), and convenience (Ploughboy is open 7 days a week until 6pm) that are

equal barriers to be overcome before local foods can make their way to consumers on a regular basis. “You can’t underestimate these factors, just like you can’t underestimate the fact that many people truly don’t know how to cook much of the real food we offer,” she says. “This is another element of accessibility that took me a while to come to terms with. At first, I couldn’t believe that people wouldn’t cook – I learned quickly that it’s not that people don’t want to cook, they just never learned how.”

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To address this, the staff always has samples of prepared foods on hand and will graciously teach patrons the best way to cook a whole chicken, or prepare a spaghetti squash, into simple, tasty meals. “It’s been a learning process, but we’re proof that local foods are not only competitive, but can be the foundation for viable businesses,” she notes. “If we can make a grocery like

Ploughboy work in a town like Salida, which has a total population draw of roughly 16,000 and is in a high-altitude, short growing cycle region - well, then this can work anywhere.” Located at: 311 H Street, Salida, Colorado 81201. 719-539-5292.

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NELS A. WROE othing underscores the volatility of springtime in Colorado like racing the clock to stay ahead of a ferocious winter storm boiling over the Rocky Mountains. Just 10 minutes earlier, Luc and I were safely ensconced in the eclectic, relaxed tasting room at Wood’s High Mountain Distillery in downtown Salida. We had spent that early April afternoon with the proprietor, PT Wood, touring his newly opened facility and sampling his award-winning spirits. We had allowed plenty of time, migrating from the reclaimed church pews along the wall to the comfortable wooden stools at the bar where most of the patrons sat visiting with PT and his brother, Tim. Afternoon sun was streaming through the large, plateglass windows when the wind-powered metal sculptures across the street suddenly drew our attention. The sculptures, whimsically rotating and twisting when we had sidled up to the bar, had become aggressive, almost violent robotlike blenders in the sudden wind gusts coming off the 14,000 ft. peaks to the west. Resisting the urge to linger, we determined our best course of action was to stay in front of the storm. Everyone at the bar understood – it was springtime in Colorado.

PAGE96 | Âť photos by Luc Nadeau


Still Cellars Organic Distillery It’s hard to safely rush a 3-1/2 hour drive down twisting, narrow mountain roads, but we did our best. As we drove, we lightened the tension by reflecting how, just one day earlier, we were in an opposite situation testing the prototypes of the handmade chairs and bar stools of the soon-to-be-opened Still Cellars. Brilliantly at home in a nondescript, light industrial warehouse in Longmont, Colorado, Still Cellars is the installation project for Jason R. Houston, founder/owner/zymologist, and Sadye Rose W., founder/owner/artful maven, soon to be one of the first certified organic distillers in Colorado – and just about guaranteed to be the the first

organic distiller y built around an art house venue. Only two days before our visit the entire Colorado Front Range had been shut down by a late-spring storm, plunging temperatures into the single digits, so the inviting warmth of the tasting room was a welcome respite. Both Sadye and Jason have mastered the art of putting guests at ease, and almost immediately we were chatting casually as if we were old friends connecting after years apart. The distillery and art house hasn’t opened its doors yet, but among the building supplies, the pallets of newly arrived bottles, and the general organized chaos of an 80% complete buildout, the heart and soul of Still Cellars was fully and completely on display.

The Still Cellars team has been in startup mode for just over two years. The distillery’s new home is just south of downtown Longmont, “close enough to be convenient yet still on the edge” as Jason aptly points out. Both owners are steeped in the arts, and this influence pervades every aspect of their project. It’s almost as if the space has been created, rather than built – from the hand-crafted, welded accents on the still (aka, “The Spirit Beast” - the contribution of a local artisan welder and metalworker) to the hand-painted, colorful mural on the bathroom door, the couple is quick to acknowledge that the arts are in their blood. “This is as much an art house as it is a distiller y,” comments Sa-

dye, pointing out with self-deprecating humor that their deep connection with the arts has stereotypically extended their startup phase into one of the longest openings in history. While the 2+ years may seem long, clearly the couple has been busy. Jason walks us through the “fenced off ” (as opposed to walled-off) distilling area to the barrels holding their first batch of barrel-aged organic whiskey and rolls it out from under an industrial metal shelf. “You’ve gotta try this,” he says, pulling the bung on one of the barrels and leaning in for a large whiff. We follow his lead, breathing in the rich, caramel aromas of their inaugural batch. Next, he leads us over to the tanks that hold their specialty – Apple. Yep – just “Apple.” Jason grins at our reaction. “Most people might call this a brandy, but it’s unique in that it is made just from apples. Brandies are typically grape-based, although they are distilled from other fruits too. It’s technically PAGE98 |

an eau-de-vie. Since this is all about the fruit - the ap ple s – why n o t c a l l it what it is?” explains Jason. Apple is just another way that Still Cellars is breaking new ground. The couple is dedicated to the creation, not just the end product. Every aspect of the art house and distillery has been touched and designed by them, almost exclusively from found or repurposed materials. “We want this place to feel as if it has been grown from the ground, not manufactured,” says Sadye, leaning up against the custom-built concrete bar that delineates the small tasting room from the operational heart of the distillery. “Our nature is to explore and create, which is why it is as important for the place to be as dedicated to the arts community as it is to distilling.” Fittingly, Still Cellars doesn’t have a firm date for opening yet, although it is a few short months away. Already Jason » photo by Luc Nadeau

and Sadye a re t h i n k ing past this point. “We really want to create a space that is as much the community’s project as ours,” says Jason. “We want it to be a place where we shape our future to what we want it to be. That might mean that we host classes on – well, on anything we want. I would love to connect with the local brewing community and offer to distill custom recipes that our patrons have created.” “Yeah, we want a place where we can stick carrots in our ears and dance around and it won’t matter,” jokes Sadye.

Wood’s High Mountain Distillery Salida, Colorado is known as the “Heart of the Rockies.” Located just 10 miles east of the dramatic Sawatch Mountain Range and built along the banks of the Arkansas River, the town is an outdoor paradise. Many residents are lured to the area by the many different recreational opportunities, only to find themselves unable to leave, deciding to carve out a living any way they can. PT Wood arrived in Salida over 20 years ago, similarly drawn to Salida’s unique blend of water, mountains, and climate. He chiseled out a good living in the area, from pizza shop owner to contractor to his latest reinvention, distiller. The idea of distilling first came to him years ago while floating the Grand Canyon, pondering how great it would be to make his own whiskey to pair with the experience of floating in one of the world’s most spectacular locations. The idea stuck – and about three years ago, he began to think seriously about bringing it to life. PT and his brother Lee began looking around Salida for a building that would be suitable. “I knew it had to be downtown. That’s the heart of the community,” PT recalls. They “looked at every building in Salida” but nothing seemed right. Riding his bike downtown, he passed the building that is now the home of his namesake distillery. PT knew that the old auto body shop was the location he wanted. “It took some work, but we finally convinced the owners of the building to sell to us,” he recalls. It is, quite possibly, the perfect location for a distillery. Since the building was an auto body shop, it was built for and approved for hazardous use, making it easier to convert for their purposes. Plus, the building is a block away from the Arkansas River and a short, 2-minute walk to more than 60

PT Wood (above) first considered distilling liquor while he was floating the Grand Canyon, wondering how great it would be to make his own whiskey to pair with the experience.

miles of single track trails. Underscoring just how important these factors are, visitors to the distillery have to navigate the many bikes stored throughout the building (let alone the kayak leaning against the wall immediately behind the still.) “Yeah, bike and boat storage might be our biggest problem,” PT laughs. It took a stroke of luck to turn Wood’s into reality. About two years ago, a friend that knew he was interested in a distillery convinced his father that the old German-made still he had been packing around since the 1960’s should be put to good use. “It was an old copper and iron Schmidt & Sons German still, probably built between the late 1880s and early 1900’s,” PT recalls. “It was at his father’s place in Kentucky,

and on the spur of the moment, we took off for a 35-hour road trip to haul almost 700 pounds of copper and iron back to Colorado.” Once in the garage, PT knew it was too late to turn back. “At that point, I was in for it,” he laughed. Once these two components came together, things went surprisingly smoothly after that. One of the many benefits of being part of a tight-knit community, the fire chief knew well in advance that PT and Lee were interested in a distillery project. “So he had plenty of time to research and study up on the requirements,” PT reflects. This was a huge advantage – the community was overwhelmingly supportive. Even working with the State and Federal agencies was relatively painless.

photos by Luc Nadeau ÂŤ | PAGE101

PAGE102 | Âť photos by Luc Nadeau

PAGE104 | Âť photos by Luc Nadeau

While it just took a while, everyone has been willing to work through issues and make things happen, even when things didn’t go as planned. “We did have one comical experience working with the State. They decided that they wanted us to pay the taxes due before they had even given us a permit to operate. Needless to say, we had a couple of humorous phone conversations about that one,” he laughs. Less than two months since opening their doors, Wood’s High Mountain Distillery has already become a fixture in downtown Salida. Their first bottle was sold to one of the local liquor stores, The Jug, on February 28, 2013, and it’s been an ongoing adventure since then. Woods has three bottlings available: a traditional, dry Gin, a barrelrested Gin, and a barrel-aged whiskey. For now he uses a single still – he has plans to add a separate stripping still that will significantly increase his capac-

ity. He uses a steam generator to heat his wash, a process that creates a very controlled, consistent heat that eliminates any danger of scorching. For his gins, he uses exclusively Colorado juniper berries, smaller and more complex than the widely-available Hungarian varieties. His careful selection of his botanicals, coupled with his custom-built 4-plate column provides for exceptional smoothness and heady botanicals in the final product. “For me the botanicals are essential to balance the spiciness of the rye I use while getting a caramel smokiness throughout,” he emphasizes. As PT was walking us through the distillery tour, several patrons had come in and were warmly invited to join. By the time we were back up front, PT’s younger brother Tim was busy trying to keep up with the customers sidling up to the bar. We glanced at the two open stools at the end of the bar, and peered at the sun shining outside the window. Yes, we ignored the agita-

tion of the windmills across the street. After all, it was spring in the Rockies. What’s a bit of wind? Alas, all good things must end. As we headed down the mountain in front of the growling storm, we reflected on the weekend’s events. No single thing could define the connections formed with the people and places we had visited. It was a complex mixture of the warm smiles from the people dropping by to say hello or sample a cocktail; the sounds of classic Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson coming from an old Magnavox tube stereo rescued from the dumpster; the eclectic artwork found in hidden nooks and crannies; fragrances coming from the mélange of juniper, cassia, star anise and coriander awaiting their introduction to the next batch; someone’s long board leaning up against the bar. It was a feeling that these places had been around for a long time -and would be for a long time to come.

PAGE106 | Âť photos by Derek Young

Kings County Distillery, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Bldg 121, Samds Street Gate, Brooklyn, NYC - Tours and Tastings every Saturday 2:30 to 5:30

MicroShiner - Spring 13  

Definitive guide to the world of craft spirits. Life. Distilled