By Julie Hooker
When asked why he built a distillery in Summit County, High West’s David Perkins matter-of-factly says, “It’s where I wanted to live.” Summit County is grateful he made that choice!
With a background in biochemistry and a love for bourbon, this Georgia gentleman learned the secrets of whiskey-making from distillers in Kentucky and Scotland. In 2004, the Perkins family arrived for good in Park City.
High West Distillery opened with a copper still in 2006. By Christmas of 2007, the first batch was on the shelves, produced by Utah’s first legal distillery since 1870.
On December 5, 1933, Utah ratified the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition and restoring the right to enjoy celebratory beverages. 76 years-to-the-day later, High West Distillery opened in downtown Park City.
The saloon and restaurant, located on Park Avenue, has Jane Perkins’ creative and historical touch. “We wanted to call High West a ‘saloon’ to pay homage to the history of saloons in the Old West and the important role they played in each town,” she explains.
Just like those historic saloons, High West is a gathering place for Parkites to meet, conduct business and enjoy social events, like the annual Repeal Day Party. All within walking distance from the ski hill!
After six years distilling in Park City and Salt Lake City, High West partnered with Blue Sky Ranch, an authentic working ranch located just 20 minutes from downtown Park City.
With 3,500 acres in eastern Summit County, the partnership offers the world’s only luxury guest ranch and distillery, with a litany of activities from tastings and tours to hiking, riding, and fishing. As High West preserves the heritage of distilling and saloons, Blue Sky protects wildlife, their horses and cattle in the old cowboy tradition.
Perkins explains, “The ranch is a different world. You’re away from the city. We’ve got wild turkeys and bald eagles.”
Currently, High West is distilling, storing, and bottling all products at Blue Sky (“Distillery at Blue”). Imported from Scotland, the stills are curvy and beautiful, pieces of art worthy of a museum. Settled against the rugged mountains, it is spectacular.
Working on the summer menus for both locations, Executive Chef James Dumas states, “We use western alpine cuisine as our compass to guide the menu.” From appetizers to desserts, the fare personifies western whiskey cuisine.
The bottom line, according to Dumas? “We are whiskey: in the kitchen, behind the bar, and on the table!”
This summer, at the annual Park City Food and Wine Classic, Distillery at Blue will host “Moonshine in the Mountains” on July 10th. Enjoy savory sensational small plates provided by the culinary team at High West, perfectly paired with assorted whiskeys. David Perkins will explain the unique range of tastes and aromas only found in whiskeys and bourbons. Included in the afternoon is a VIP tour of the new state-of-the-art facility.
When asked about his favorite summer beverage, Perkins did not hesitate. “I challenge anyone to find a more delicious drink than a Mint Julep with American Prairie Bourbon.” His go-to whiskey is the Rendezvous Rye, a blend of two exotic varieties — one old and one new.
Spend some time at the saloon in town and the distillery at Blue Sky this summer, and savor the smooth softness of great whiskey. Look for the opening of its Visitors’ Center, slated to open July 4th.