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The 6 Places to Sip Whiskey (and Rum and Vodka and Gin) in the Mountains

You don’t need to be in a big city to drink quality, locally-sourced booze. More and more craft distilleries are popping up in mountain towns.

High West Saloon is known for their small-batch whiskey and a rare breed of high-altitude vodka. (Barrett Doran Photography)
high west distillery

You don’t need to be in a big city to drink quality, locally-sourced booze. More and more craft distilleries are popping up in mountain towns.

Wyoming Whiskey, Kirby, Wyoming

For a taste of the state's first and only local whiskey, stop by Wyoming Whiskey’s Big Horn Basin distillery for a tour of their custom 38-foot copper still, used to make the family-owned company’s signature, hand-crafted bourbon. The operation got its start in 2012 with small-batch bourbon, made entirely from locally sourced corn, wheat, barley, and rye. Distiller Sam Mead, son of the company’s founders, was once a competitive slopestyle and halfpipe skier.

High West Distillery, Park City, Utah

Whiskey aficionado David Perkins ditched a career in biotech in Silicon Valley to move his family to Park City to open Utah’s first legal distillery since prohibition. High West Saloon, which opened with a ski-in, ski-out location at the base of Park City Mountain Resort’s Town Lift in 2007, is known for their small-batch whiskey and a rare breed of high-altitude vodka. Last year, they opened a new distilling facility called Big Sky on a cattle ranch outside of Park City.

Stonecutter Spirits, Middlebury, Vermont

Stonecutter Spirits, a 2013 start-up by a 30-something husband-and-wife duo, makes aged single-barrel gin and whiskey, named after the stonecutters and masons who used to occupy the town of Middlebury in the 19th century. Show up at their new tasting room Thursday through Sunday nights for cocktail parties featuring a monthly themed cocktail list, including inventive tipples like celery soda (aged gin, housemade celery syrup, lemon, and soda) and blood orange Negronis made with their house-aged gin. Or take a tour on the Midd Tasting Trail to sample other craft beverages made within a five-mile radius.

Montanya Distillers, Crested Butte, Colorado

Producers of three craft distilled rums made at 9,000 feet, Montanya Distillers brings beachy cocktails to the mountains. Using sugar cane from Louisiana, the rums are aged in white oak barrels that previously held Colorado whiskeys. Pop into the tasting room on downtown Crested Butte’s Elk Avenue for a Teocalli martini, made with cucumber-infused rum, lavender, mint, honey, and lime, and a plate of flank steak street tacos.

Pemberton Distillery, Pemberton, British Columbia

It makes sense that a valley famous for its potatoes would one day become known for its vodka, too. Pemberton Distillery, which opened in 2009 in the heart of BC’s Coast Mountain just north of Whistler, is run by distiller and owner Tyler Schramm, who learned the art of distilling in Scotland and runs the business alongside his family members. The Schramm brothers built their distillery by hand, utilizing geothermal heating and cooling to reduce the distillery’s energy use by 40 to 70 percent. Now, they make and sell a tasty array of organic vodka, gin, single-malt whiskey, aged apple brandy, and a limited batch absinthe.

Tahoe Moonshine Distillery and Speakeasy, South Lake Tahoe, California

Leave it to Tahoe Moonshine Distillery to come up with hand-crafted liquors with names like Snowflake Vodka, Stormin’ Whiskey, and Jagged Peaks Gin. Owner and lead distiller Jeffrey VanHee, a longtime beer brewer who used to work as a Tahoe contractor, first distilled rum on a trip to Costa Rica in 2007 and was later trained through the American Distilling Institute. He started making spirits in 2011 and opened the speakeasy, a 6,000-square-foot bar and event space in South Lake Tahoe, last April.

Filed To: Wine, Beer, and Spirits / Travel
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.


(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.

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