entire state hungover, following whiskey debut

By Jim Stanford on December 3, 2012

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People wait in line to purchase Wyoming Whiskey outside the opening party Saturday in Kirby. The spectacular launch of the bourbon has put the tiny town in central Wyoming’s Hot Springs County on the map for liquor connoisseurs.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead might as well have declared today a state holiday, after nearly every resident rushed out to purchase and consume ample quantities of his brother’s Wyoming Whiskey over the weekend.

The long-awaited first release of the homegrown bourbon became a marketing sensation unlike anything the state has ever seen. Not only were hundreds of Wyoming retailers shut out, but stores, too, were raided shortly after opening.

Jackson Whole Grocer opened at 7 a.m. Saturday and sold all 150 bottles in stock within 25 minutes. Yes, people lined up to buy whiskey at 7 a.m. The store had to cancel a planned tasting because there was none left to taste.

At the distillery in Kirby, a line of roughly three times the town’s population of 92 stretched from the party tent as people waited to buy a bottle, in a scene one onlooker described as reminiscent of Prohibition.

The question lingering like cottonmouth and a dull headache, though, is whether the whiskey lived up to the hype. The Casper Star-Tribune consulted a liquor expert, who described it as “one of the best bourbons I’ve ever tasted.”

Bottles like this were hard to come by Saturday. The Liquor Store will sell a limited number during a tasting and signing Tuesday.

A Jackson Facebook poster sought input from his friends, saying, “The jury’s still out.” One commenter wrote, “Needs to age. First taste like rubbing alcohol but finishes off pretty smooth.”

I was able to secure a bottle through a discounted pre-order but thought twice about putting it up for bid on eBay, given all the hoopla. (It would go well in this decanter.) The bottle is destined for a holiday gift or sharing with friends.

Jackson rancher Brad Mead and attorney Dave DeFazio, partners in the venture, sold some 3,000 cases — 18,000 bottles — from the first batch, which was aged in charred oak barrels for three years.

“It’ll be ready when it’s good and ready” was one of their slogans, and evidently it worked to build anticipation. Before the next batch is ready in spring, Mead, DeFazio and new national sales director Tim Harland likely will hit the interview circuit to discuss their marketing brilliance.

It helped that the whiskey was released Dec. 1, in time for the holidays and as gloomy weather took hold across the state.

For those with the shakes or still jonesing for a drop, The Liquor Store next to Albertsons will host a tasting from 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday. The makers, including master distiller Steve Nally, will be on hand to sign bottles. There will be a few cases for sale beginning at 4.

Also, via Dishing, Q Roadhouse is throwing a launch party Friday with Wyoming Whiskey-flavored food and one cocktail provided with $10 entry.

(Kirby photo by Barb Allen; bottle via TLS)

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Posted under Business, Humor, Wyoming

12 Comments so far

  1. Boat 1 Retired December 4, 2012 11:04 am

    It was a great party. Wyoming fun in Big Horn basin. Great to see all the Jackson folks there – would guess that Teton County was best represented of all. Alan Simpson’s auction was fantastic – the guy still has it! The line for retail was at one time over 2 hours long! And the after party at the Safari Club and the parking lot — oh my! who thought whiskey and lobster went together so well – good friends, good food, good music, good whiskey, good times!

  2. Brad December 4, 2012 1:16 pm

    Party hoopla aside, as recounted above, I’m with the “jury’s out” cautionary tale. As a former publican, as Capt. Bob refers to tavern proprietors, it concerned me that they were releasing WW a year early, seemingly under pressure from locals to party early. A taste of it this past weekend leads me to further question that it’s “good and ready” and needed that extra year. Not that I’m the real expert, but a lot of faith has been placed in the distillers from Maker’s who took this on. Hope I’m wrong and it becomes the real deal.

  3. Beth December 4, 2012 6:33 pm

    I wonder if the Gov would support harmless fracking activity anywhere near the limestone water that is used by Wyoming Whiskey?

    Comments about the whiskey quality have been all over the map which leads me to think it’s a little like Coke vs Pepsi. Some people hate Coke, some prefer it.

  4. skip December 4, 2012 10:45 pm

    I am bummed because I let the storm scare me off from going to the launch party. But I did get a bottle on Saturday that I preordered from TLS. My first taste was “iffy”, as I found it to be quite astringent and harsh, both to the nose and the tongue. However, I had a second taste the following day, and either the air or my experience with it allowed me to taste the character of the whiskey. I think it is quite good, but meant to be savored, not slugged. Pour it into a brandy snifter (my favorite way to drink bourbon) and allow the nose to hit you as you taste, and you will find that it’s very pleasant indeed. But if you’re not a true whiskey drinker, don’t bother. It’ll be lost on you.

  5. Woolly December 4, 2012 11:07 pm

    It was a grand weekend. Wyoming Whiskey pulled off a first class event, and the impromptu lobster dinner was delicious.

    The whiskey is undeniably young but has a great flavor. A few more years and it will be very impressive.

  6. D December 5, 2012 8:33 am
  7. Brad December 5, 2012 1:54 pm

    Skip, agreed. Any good whiskey is to be savored, not slugged. I spent a bit of time with my nose first before putting it to my mouth and my reaction was similar to yours. Going further, whiskey should only be savored on its own. Anything it’s mixed with aside from ice, water or club soda, destroys it. The first time I see someone order WW with coke, I’m gonna belt him.

  8. js December 5, 2012 5:02 pm

    @ Beth: +1 re: limestone water!

  9. Harry B December 5, 2012 5:06 pm

    D

    “I bet he would, because he actually knows the facts”

    I doubt it.

    The whiskey businesss is ALL about marketing, facts aside. They market their ‘limestone water’. They don’t market the fracking waste water.

    Ignorance is Bliss when it comes to the extractive industry. Having worked it, I’ve seen the spills and accidents first hand. And the fact is that fracking, even if done ‘correctly’ can lead to unintended contamination.

    Deep sea drilling is safe too. So is smoking.

  10. D December 6, 2012 9:03 am

    Well well I guess I better take your word for it. My years of working not only in the industry, but specifically on the regulation side of it mean nothing. No industry is without its flaws, but when done correctly which is 99% of the time, there are NO cases of proven contamination. Flying is safe also, but sometimes things go wrong, I guess you’re leading the fight against it as well ? Like I said the fact matter. If it was half as risky as you think it is, they would have stopped it and I would be fighting against it. There are spill, there are accidents but Fracing is not the issue. I was born and raised at the center of this debate and if I believed for a second it was dangerous to the water supply, I would be the first to lead the fight. The facts are not on your side.
    But cheers I hope you get your hands on that whiskey !

  11. FRACKING December 8, 2012 10:17 am

    http://www.npr.org/2012/12/07/166755886/positive-fracking-study-was-funded-by-gas-company

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-06/texas-energy-institute-head-quits-amid-fracking-study-conflicts.html

    Even biased studies from the gas industry say the danger of water contamination is low but they never say the danger is nonexistent. All extractive work carries risk and reward.

    Those who think the extractive industry is harmless don’t have any memory of the historical record.

  12. Brad December 9, 2012 6:06 pm

    The results all depend on who’s conducting the exploration and how badly. My nephew is a geological exploration engineer supervising drilling crews in PA and NY. He works for Shell, which has always had an exemplary record for efficient, clean exploration. The amount of fracking fluids necessary to do this right is miniscule, almost microscopic compared to the massive amounts of water used. Shell abides by the absolute minimum use of these fluids. But, obviously, the more fluid applied the faster the drilling can progress and it drives him nuts when irresponsible operators give the industry a bad name.

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