Colorado’s Woody Creek Vodka earns top spirit honors
Poland, watch out. Or rejoice. A young Colorado distillery has earned a big name for itself in the world of vodka.
It has Polish potatoes to thank, in part, but the recipe for this beverage goes even deeper than those roots.
Woody Creek Distillers, based in Basalt just outside of Aspen, recently took home the double gold medal for its vodka in the most respected spirits contest in the world, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
The distillery’s Colorado 100% Potato Vodka was named the best vodka there, and Woody Creek is only three years old.
Melissa Wisenbaker, spokesperson for the distillery, describes the competition as the “Oscars for booze.”
Woody Creek’s vodka is like none other in the nation, she says. It’s the only distillery in the country with complete control over every element of the vodka production, from farm to bottle. It’s also the only distillery in North America that grows Polish Strobrawa potatoes–considered the cornerstone of the finest vodka in the world.
Woody Creek harvests its own potatoes, on a farm only eight miles from the distillery, and the spuds are processed quickly, often the same day. The vodka itself is only distilled one single time, which is also rare.
“A lot of other vodkas claim they’re distilled six to 10 times and brag about that, but really, the more you run it through, the more you’re trying to get rid of bad stuff,” Wisenbaker says.
With homegrown potatoes, that’s not needed, she says. And what you’re left with is the natural taste and character of a crisp, fresh vodka that Wisenbaker likens to a martini in a bottle. (That’s why Woody Creek doesn’t make any flavored vodka, she says; the pure stuff is good enough.) And, no, you won’t find mass-produced ethanol in this ultra-premium spirit.
Whereas the vodka is Woody Creek’s baby, it launched a new rye in November. The pure Colorado rye has been aging for more than two years in American white oak barrels, and, like the vodka, the whole creation process takes place in the distillery.
This month, at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic, Woody Creek will launch its new gin, with potato vodka serving as its base spirit.
If you can’t make the foodie fest, you can still try the full line of spirits, as well as a newly released summer cocktail menu, at the distillery’s tasting room. Tastings and cocktails are served from 4-9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday and tours are by appointment all summer.
For something different, sign up for Woody Creek’s new summer outdoor adventures, which pair various activities with a distillery experience. Take a rafting trip down the Roaring Fork River and go fly fishing, before you head back to the restaurant Element 47 for a whiskey pairing dinner. Or venture out an evening rafting trip through Blazing Adventures that ends at the distillery–this Tuesday and Friday excursion is aptly named–what else?–the Whiskey River Tour.
Fun facts about Woody Creek Distillers:
• Woody Creek is the only distillery in North America to grow Strobrawa potatoes for vodka. The distillery worked with two universities to get the special seeds for this Polish potato, considered to create the finest vodka in the world.
• When Hunter S. Thompson died, Johnny Depp blasted his ashes out of a cannon in Woody Creek, which just so happened to land on the farm where Woody Creek Distillers grows its potatoes for its vodka–meaning each bottle of the reserve vodka has a little “Gonzo” in it.
• Woody Creek is the first and only craft distillery in the country to control every aspect of its vodka production.
• Woody Creek Distillery is a low-emissions facility, using the most efficient distillation technology available. The waste from its raw products goes back to the Scanlan Farm in Woody Creek as compost, or to local ranches for livestock feed.
• In the summer, guests can bike down to the distillery from Aspen via the Rio Grande Trail or go on a rafting or fly fishing trip.