The Saratoga Sun -

Brush Creek gets spirited

Brush Creek Distillery releases line of spirits to local liquor stores with plans to add more


September 16, 2020

Mike Armstrong

Barrels are holding the spirits of Brush Creek Distillery

When Brush Creek Ranch first envisioned The Farm, it included a brewery and distillery to compliment its world class restaurant. The brewery recently put out product for Brush Creek Ranch patrons and, now, Brush Creek Distillery is offering several spirits for sale.

Andrew Wason, Managing Director of Brush Creek Distillery, said Brush Creek Distillery is a small-batch distiller introducing four high quality spirits for guests and the regional marketplace.

Brush Creek Gin uses juniper berries that are found on the grounds of Brush Creek Ranch and surrounding areas. Other botanicals are harvested from the nearby 20,000 square foot certified organic Brush Creek greenhouse. This small batch New American-style gin is not like a London Dry style that many gin drinkers expect.  It has light juniper notes, with noticeable citrus and soft botanicals that make this style a great sipping gin or an excellent base for a gin and tonic. Wason said Brush Creek Gin is redistilled on-site using a combination of boil and vapor infusion in the 250-gallon Vendome copper pot still.

The Vendome pot still brings a glint of happiness to Wason's eyes as he shows it off.

For over 100 years, Vendome Copper and Brass Works has been fabricating and supplying equipment to distilleries. Vendome, located throughout its history in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, is a family owned business overseen by the fourth generation of its original founders.

"It is a work of art and I was so happy when I saw it," Wason said.

To understand his happiness with this beautiful pot still, a little knowledge of distillation is needed.

Distillation creates a high alcohol by volume (ABV) spirit by evaporating ethanol from a fermented alcoholic base liquid. Ethanol boils at a lower temperature than water, so it can be drawn off as vapor while water remains in a liquid state. The process never makes pure ethanol, and the distillate always contains a proportion of water, as well as flavor giving compounds called congeners.

During pot distillation, the base liquid heats in the main chamber until boiling ethanol vapor rises to the head of the still and exits through the lyne arm. The lyne arm connects the still head to the product condenser.

There are many different ways to configure this connection and each option has a different effect on the final flavor of the spirit produced. From the lyne arm, vapor passes into the cooling coil where it condenses and flows as a liquid into a collection vessel. When pot stills were first used, distillers used fire to heat the pot but, in modern times, temperature controlled steam is a common alternative. The modern technique is desirable because it reduces the risk of burning the base spirit and creating undesirable flavors. 

The Vendome pot still is named Esther. The name comes from the fact esthers are found in the distillation process and that the first female justice of the peace in the United States was Wyoming resident Esther Hobart Morris.

The Brush Creek Distillery is making sure the flavors of its spirits are excellent.

The vodka, which is sourced from snow melt water, has a smooth, clean and slightly mineral taste. This is another Brush Creek white spirit that is excellent as a sipping spirit or a base for cocktails.

Wason is proud of products distilled at the Brush Creek Distillery.

He hails originally from Louisville, Kentucky. Wason is an avid skier, so his college years were spent going to school in Colorado. He went back to Kentucky and spent years in the spirits industry, but not as a distiller. He spent 18 years in wine and spirits distribution at Republic National Distributing Company where he held positions in operations, sales, finance and marketing.

"People used to ask what my favorite liquor was and I used to say whatever I was selling at the moment," Wasson joked.

It is a different story now.

"I am on the other side now and I really enjoy it," Wason said. "It is a challenge because, as much as my distribution side has helped, the supplier side has given me a totally different perspective of the industry."

Wason is charged with developing and operating Brush Creek Distillery's craft spirits program and expanding its products in markets across the country.

There is bourbon and rye that have been distilled at Brush Creek Distillery that are aging in barrels to be bottled some years from now.

In the meantime, Brush Creek has blended three bourbon into barrels from quality producers to create Brush Creek Straight Bourbon and blended ryes for Brush Creek Straight Rye.

"The youngest whiskey in the barrels is 11 years old," Wason said. "The whiskies' taste make us proud to put Brush Creek's name on the bottles."

The first batches of Brush Creek Straight Bourbon, Brush Creek Straight Rye, Brush Creek Vodka and Brush Creek Gin can be found in liquor stores in Saratoga, Rawlins, Laramie, Cheyenne, Casper, Sheridan and surrounding counties.

 "We are thrilled to showcase the high quality spirits crafted right here in our backyard," Wason said. "Our craft distilling and blending processes provide for singular small batch bourbon, rye, gin, and vodka, allowing us to closely monitor every batch, barrel and bottle, and do things that larger distilleries cannot do."

 The Distillery team embraces sustainable practices whenever possible. Spent grains from the production of bourbon and rye are shared with local ranchers and Brush Creek Ranch, where Executive Pastry and Bakery Chef Keisha Sanderson uses the grains in the creation of 'Spent Grain Bread'. Sanderson also uses the bourbon in desserts such as bourbon ice cream.

"I am a perfectionist," Sanderson said. "I give it my all when I try different experiments and I hate making mistakes. I have a lot of success with my experiments because failure is not acceptable to me."

Sanderson said she gets all her recipes from her head.

"That is where the bourbon and the bread comes in," Sanderson said. "It was experimental, but I knew it would be successful because I refused to have failure. I did the same thing with my chocolate truffles that are made with bourbon."

Mike Armstrong

The Brush Creek Bourbon and Herb Encrusted bread served at The Cheyenne club are a combination not be missed.

Sanderson is not surprised when people tell her how delicious the truffles are with the bourbon.

"I told you I am a perfectionist," Sanderson laughed.

At this time, the distillery is not open to the public, but guests at Brush Creek Ranch are brought in for tastings. There is a good chance the guest will have Blair Allwood, a member of the distillery team, take them through a tasting. Allwood said she loves taking people through the tastes of Brush Creek spirits.

"It is always enjoyable taking people through a tasting of quality spirits," Allwood said.

Wason is happy to have the Brush Creek products out in the marketplace currently.

"When many people hear Brush Creek, they expect superb quality," Wason said. "With our distillery and its products, we aim to live up to that expectation. The proof is when they taste our spirits."


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