SARATOGA — Before you can even make it to the Brush Creek Distillery to quaff a couple of their newly released spirits, chances are you’ll be escorted down a long basement tunnel, adorned with stone walls and arched ceilings reminiscent of medieval bridges.
To your right side, windows peering into one of the largest wine cellars you’ve ever seen — more than 30,000 bottles, ballpark figure. Interspersed on the other end, locked doors that lead into wine vaults — one of which leads to a hidden bar through a trapdoor.
You’ve never seen anything like it. Nor have you tasted anything like it.
At the end of the hallway, a kitchen. Head pastry chef and lead baker Keisha Sanderson, a Jamaican-born culinary expert recruited from a four-diamond and 5-star hotel in upstate New York, will likely give you a quick lesson on what it’s like to work with fresh ingredients as she pulls out a freshly baked loaf of bread.
“The bread is made from all the ingredients from all the elements here at the ranch,” she says.
This is why “The Farm,” a seed-to-table experience established just last year at Brush Creek, is sometimes jokingly referred to by most of the world-class artisans on staff as Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
“There’s so much stuff here,” Andrew Wason, managing director of Brush Creek Distillery. “The business managers thrive off the creativity of the others.”
Chef Sanderson not only bakes fresh bread from the fat of the land, from scratch she makes chocolate and ice cream using mash spilled at the upstairs brewery/distillery.
Meanwhile, in the nearby luxurious “Cheyenne Room,” where an array of celebrities and business tycoons sometimes dine, executive chef Angus McIntosh, former executive sous chef of the famous Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colo., devises his next exquisite menu.
Any root vegetables he decides to incorporate, likely harvested next door, just steps away in the 20,000 square foot certified organic greenhouse. If he so desires to add meat, he can select 100% Wagyu beef, raised onsite.
Then there’s the “goatel” — or, a hotel for goats. This lodging accommodation houses the very herd of ruminant animals that produces milk for the creamery, which also conveniently sits on the premises.
But perhaps what’s been making the most noise lately on The Farm: the distillery. Just weeks ago Brush Creek Distillery came out with a new line of bourbon, rye, vodka and gin. And liquor stores and restaurants in Saratoga, Rawlins, Laramie, Cheyenne, Casper, Sheridan and surrounding counties are now garnished by the Brush Creek brand.
“We want to start in our own backyard in Wyoming and really grow locally throughout the state,” Wason said. “Our motto is the ‘true spirit of the West,’ and we want to stay true to that.”
THE DISTILLERYFully stocked, sandy beige oak barrels rest on a metal rack beside the bar.
Wason, the liquor connoisseur and guru responsible for the spirits’ manufacture, sale and distribution, has one particular casket in mind: one that’s enveloped by a California cabernet finish; a young blend of bourbon soaks within.
“We’re going to taste some today,” Wason says of the spirit in the barrel. “But in eight to 10 months, we’ll have a Chimney Rock Napa Valley cabernet finished in Brush Creek bourbon.”
According to Brush Creek, Wason helped launch Brush Creek Distillery last year, fulfilling the vision to produce spirits at Brush Creek Ranch. He embraced the challenge after 18 years of experience in wine and spirits distribution at Republic National Distributing Company where he climbed the executive ranks to hold positions in operations, sales, finance and marketing. He also served for numerous years as chair and board member of Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America’s Conference for Leadership Development. Wason is charged with developing and operating Brush Creek Distillery’s craft spirits program and expanding its products in markets across the country, including targeting Colorado and Texas yet this year, followed by Indiana and Kentucky in 2021.
It’s no surprise that major distillers from across the country have already visited Brush Creek to try the new products.
“We’ve gotten a great response back right out of the gates from folks throughout Wyoming,” Wason said of the spirits’ release. “They’re excited about what we’re bringing to market, about future innovation and having something they can call their own.”
Behind the bar back rests a gigantic glass window. Beyond that window, a large copper top still.
“It’s a 275-gallon cooker,” said Jeremey Dever, one of the consultants. “We allow enough for some headspace to add water and displacement between grains and water, for temperature. And that depends on both ambient temperature as well as the humidity, as well as the altitude that we’re in.”
The water used in the process, said Wason, is local.
“All of our products are cut with water that we pick up on the ranch from the Snowy Mountain Range,” he said. “We’ve got well water; we collect that well water and we run it through a reverse osmosis program.”
Once the tour of the distillery is over, it’s time to taste the products.
Blair Woodell, the general operations manager, pours each spirit into a specific glass. For Brush Creek Bourbon, she uses a Glaincarn, a small crystal of a glass with a bulb in its middle. She swirls it around and smells it, with her nose at least a couple inches away from the brim.
“You can’t get a hangover from this,” she jokes. “With wine, you’re going to take that glass, put your nose right up in there. We do not want to do that with a high-peak alcohol. It will numb your olfactory nerve.”
Once the testing is over, it’s time to use an electric drill to open the casket of blended whiskey. As it waterfalls into the glass, it shines of a buttery, silvery texture.
Wason takes a sip.
“Sometimes you have to pinch yourself because it’s such an overwhelming place,” he said. “You see it not only through your own eyes but the eyes of the guests and the vendors that come through.”
“This has just been a great place to hunker down and focus on the distillery,” he added. “Yeah, it’s a pretty awesome place to be.”
THE SPIRITSBrush Creek Straight Rye
Inspired by the colorful and bold moments of life and richly populated with flavor, this straight rye whiskey born in Indiana and matured in Wyoming has a spicy aroma of fruit and floral that is followed by butterscotch and vanilla flavor. It’s delivered in a smooth, creamy body that’s immensely tasteful, providing for a unique whiskey experience.
Tasting notes: Rich and robust, our rye exudes spice on the nose, caramel, candied fruit and light citrus round out the palate. Refined flavors of hickory and roasted pecans compliment the spice that lingers on the finish.
Brush Creek Straight Bourbon
A unique four-grain blend, showcasing the beauty of multiple straight bourbon whiskeys from storied programs born in Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee, rested at high elevations under Wyoming’s bluebird skies. The product and its unique mash bill are the result of over two decades of industry experience, strong friendships, a passion for excellence and the pursuit to celebrate the American West.
Tasting notes: Bold aromas of malt and dried cherries mingle with hints of new leather and thyme. A well-balanced combination of vanilla, fresh caramel, bakery spices and toasted oak delight on the palate. A long, rich finish with hints of cinnamon will call you back again and again.
Brush Creek Vodka
Our non-GMO vodka is redistilled on-site using a Vendome copper pot still to further remove any impurities and cut with the clear mountain water that’s filtered down from the fine granite rock from the nearby Snowy Mountain Range just above the distillery.
Tasting notes: Brush Creek Vodka offers up a crystal clear, unadulterated spirit with just a hint of natural grains and minerality from the locally sourced snow melt water. The finish is clean and smooth, making it a perfect match for an array of cocktails.
Brush Creek Gin
This small batch New American-style gin utilizes juniper that is foraged off the ranch and surrounding areas, along with botanicals produced in the on-site 20,000 square foot certified organic Brush Creek Greenhouse. Brush Creek Gin is redistilled on-site using a combination of boil and vapor infusion in our 250-gallon Vendome copper pot still.
Tasting notes: Light juniper notes present in the nose, backed up great citrus and soft botanicals to create a wonderfully balanced New American-style gin. A smooth, refreshing mouthfeel that showcases flowery orris, chamomile and a hint of spice on the finish that are purely Wyoming.