In Park City, Utah, there is a weathered building that has seen many lives.
was a Victorian-era mining home and livery stable, then a garage and auto shop and
then it was abandoned. Today, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic
Places and is home to High West Distillery
and Saloon, Utah’s first legal distillery since 1870 and the world’s only
ski-in gastro pub. Located just off Park City’s main drag, High West sits at
the bottom of the Quittin’ Time Ski run and across the street from the chairlift.
distiller David Perkins quit his job as a biochemist in 2004 and moved his
family to Park City to open High West. About 90% of the building’s original
materials were restored and retained in the construction, and the operation
blends Perkins’s science background with his love of cooking, bourbon (he was
raised in Georgia) and the American West.
The food menu
is centred around whiskey; many dishes use the spirit in sauces or preparation.
Diners seeking a full-fledged meal can enjoy small plates of High West’s
contemporary mountain fare (bison, elk, trout) in what used to be the downstairs
livery or in former bedrooms upstairs.
High West produces
award-winning small batches of nine types of whiskey, a barrel-aged Manhattan and
two vodkas. “Every one of our whiskies is innovative,” Perkins said. “Rendezvous
Rye is our number one seller. The innovation was blending a six-year and a
16-year rye whiskey.” It’s unusual to blend two liquors so far about in age,
but combining the rich, deep and lush qualities of a 16-year whiskey with the
feisty spice of a six-year-old makes for a full-flavoured and complex sip. It
also helped High West win an award for Best Rye Whiskey at the 2010 American
Distilling Institute Craft Whiskey Competition.
Utah’s tough liquor laws, High West was barred from building a tasting room. And
if you order a whiskey flight, the server will bring out only two glasses at a
time, because the law stipulates that you can only have two alcoholic drinks in
front of you simultaneously. But slowly, things are changing. High West
recently banded with local breweries to change a liquor law and now the
distillery is allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays and
produces about 10,000 cases per year, with plans to expand operations. About
300 people per week take distillery tours, which are given daily at 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm
and 3:30 pm.