Perhaps nothing is more symbolic of the Wild West than whiskey. From John Wayne asking for a bottle of whiskey in Rio Bravo, to Augustus McCray espousing to glories of it in Lonesome Dove, it is universally recognized as the drink that helped win the west. So it seemed only fitting that Wyoming, the “Cowboy State” should have it’s own whiskey.
Founded in 2009, Wyoming Whiskey exists to do just one thing—create distinctive bourbon using only Wyoming sourced ingredients. Located in the tiny town of Kirby, population 92, the distillery is surrounded by miles and miles of ranches.
When the Mead family (ranching in the area since the 1800’s) and David DeFazio decided to distill a great bourbon they knew they needed help. Well luckily for them they were able to convince Steve Nally to accept the position of Master Distiller. A member of the Bourbon Hall of Fame, class of 2007, Nally brought with him the knowledge and expertise earned from decades at Makers Mark. He helped them dial in a recipe that is both distinctive and welcoming. Though he has since left to return to his roots in Kentucky, his legacy lives on in each bottle.
Demand for their whiskey was so big that when they first unveiled their product for tasting over 3,000 people flooded Kirby. Just for a taste of it. Their first release of 20,000 bottles sold out almost immediately. Luckily they had thousands of gallons of whiskey waiting in barrels. As word of their superbly smooth spirit started to spread outside the state, demand from surrounding states grew. It seemed everyone wanted to try it.
Luckily, Colorado was one of the first expansions they undertook; they now are available across the Rocky Mountain region with a large national expansion planned this year.
Using a thirty-eight foot tall column still, and a 42” by 40” pot still, they are able to fine-tune their whiskey to subtly bring hints of vanilla, honey, and orange peel forward. During the five-years it spends in fresh, charred, white oak barrels it goes through a continuing cycle of heat from high plains summers and the bighting cold of mountain winters. The results are a smooth sipper at eighty-eight proof is perfect either neat or on the rocks. What ever you do don’t bastardize it with coke-cola, save that stuff for the Beam.
So the next trip you have planned make sure you toss a bottle of this kick-ass bourbon into your gear pile. After a day spent paddling or climbing you will be the talk of the campfire when you pop the cork and pour everyone a slug of red-eye. And maybe as the sun sets the ghosts of cowboys long gone will smile upon you.