If you’ve been around these parts the past few years, you may know that Park City–based High West Distillery and Saloon made history as Utah’s first legal distillery since 1870. High West’s bourbons and ryes routinely receive glowing national and international reviews and are proudly poured by bartenders from San Francisco to New York. Pretty impressive for a relatively small, fairly new distillery that (as is common) has purchased and blended more product than it has produced and released to date. Small until summer 2015, that is. When High West opened its 30,000-square-foot destination distillery at Blue Sky Utah just east of Park City, it was clear that, as the old Bachman Turner Overdrive song goes, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
The focus at High West at Blue Sky—headquarters for almost all of High West’s distilling and bottling operations—is squarely on educating the interested about the whiskey-making process. “We built this place because whiskey matters!” says High West founder David Perkins. “It’s why we get out of bed in the morning; we want to share the experience.” All of High West at Blue Sky—spanning the distillery, bottling facility, restaurant, tasting room, private meeting rooms, and general store—is housed in rust-colored, metal roof–topped buildings reflecting a decidedly upscale version of Park City mining style. Each is detailed to perfection, down to the leather-stitched door handles. A vaulted hallway ceiling made of charred barrel staves leads into the communal dining area, dubbed the refectory.
Tours walk visitors through the process of converting grain to mash, fermentation, and distilling the magic in the 25-foot-tall, 1,585-gallon-capacity copper pot still. The entire experience is a feast for the senses, with sweet, yeasty aromas of rye and barley malt tickling the olfactory, beckoning you to head straight for the tasting room to purchase flights of the finished product. The refectory offers whiskey-friendly small plates: charcuterie and cheeses, house-made breads, crackers, and pickled vegetables Wednesday through Saturday; and on Sunday, brunch. An ideal end note to a destination experience embodying the pioneering spirit—and spirits—of the new High West.