Sometimes I don’t drink beer.
Sometimes I drink vodka. And we will all pause for the dramatic gasp that you have now exhibited. I also like rum. Double gasp.
I come from the state of Idaho. A state known mostly for one thing, potatoes. It is usually something I roll my eyes at when I tell someone I am from Idaho and often the response is “oh you must grow potatoes”. Yep I have an entire field of them growing in my backyard because we all fall under the stereotypes of the states we live in. Just like all Iowans are corn-fed and Wisconsinites all love cheese.
And while vodka can be made from fermented corn, rice, rye or wheat it can also be made from potatoes. Grand Teton Distillery in Driggs Idaho produces their vodka from potatoes. They do use space-saving potato flakes for their vodka as actual potatoes would fill their entire facility, leaving no room for the production of not only their vodka but also the whiskey and moonshine they are making.
I had had my eye on visiting Grand Teton Distillery for a few years but it is rare for me to be in that part of the state and I had not had the opportunity until last spring while visiting Jackson Wyoming to stop by the distillery. The drive out to the distillery is part of the Yellowstone-Teton Scenic Loop, so it is picturesque, however does result in traveling over Teton Pass if you are headed to Jackson Wyoming. I know I have complained about this pass a few times in the last few posts but seriously it is not a road to be trifled with. And yes Coloradans I am aware that you have much higher mountain passes because that is what your state is known for, tall mountains.
On the day I decided to visit the distillery I walked into the tasting room and found no one. I did however hear voices from within the distillery. The tasting room attendant appeared and mentioned a tour was already in progress. Remember how I mentioned this last week?
“It is a fear of mine, to take a tour solo. Mostly because I am socially awkward and cringe at the thought of an hour-long tour with just me and the tour guide”
To avoid this fear of mine I asked if I could join the all ready in progress tour. The attendant obliged and even offered to go over the part of the tour I had missed after the current tour and tasting was over. Perfect, I could do 10 minutes alone with the tour guide.
The guide continued explaining the distilling process to me and my fellow tour goers. Distilling is similar to beer brewing with the mash in process, or the boil. Yeast is added which eats the sugars to create the alcohol. The liquid then gets referred to as wash. This is where the similarities end between beer and alcohol as alcohol then goes through the distilling process. The wash is transferred to the pot of the distiller where it is brought to a boil. There are two boiling points, one for water and one for the ethanol. That’s right, ethanol, the stuff that it in your fuel. The boiling liquids then travel up the distillation column where most of the wash condenses and falls back into the pot. The vapor with the highest alcohol content travels to the top of the column where it is separated from the ethanol. The ethanol can then be used for fuel and the rest moves on to be alcohol.
The tour then led us into the bottling room where we learned that Grand Teton Distilling does not have an automatic bottling line. Everything they send out the door is hand bottled by 5 people working in an assembly line style process. In a world where most everything is automated it was interesting to hear that they are still hand bottling everything. So if you ever consume any of Grand Teton’s spirits you can take satisfaction in the fact that bottle was hand filled just for you.
The tour wrapped up and we returned to the tasting room where we were allowed three 1 oz (29 mL) tastes. The tasting attendant was strict with the rules of only three tastes but she did mention that once she handed you the tasting cup that it was up to you on how you consumed it. Meaning you could share with your neighbor if you so desired.
For my first taste I tried the Grand Teton Potato Vodka. It was smooth with no harsh aftertaste. I actually have this on the rocks occasionally at home and it is a very drinkable vodka. This vodka is a 40% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) and 80% proof. The vodka I tasted was unflavored, however they do offer cherry and huckleberry flavored vodkas with a 35% ABV and 60 proof.
My next taste was the Apple Pie Moonshine. It is a 35% ABV and 70 proof. This is a whiskey blend proofed with apple juice, brown sugar, cinnamon and other spices. Although the tasting was delightfully spicy flavored the tasting attendant recommended mixing it with an orange soda. I purchased a bottle of the moonshine and brought it home with me, mixing it with the orange soda as suggested. I enjoyed this both mixed and on its own.
My last taste was the Huckleberry Moonshine. It is a 35% ABV and 70 proof. It is rare that you will hear me say this as I love sugary drinks (hence my fondness for rum), but the huckleberry moonshine was much too sugary tasting for me. It was surprising to me that it was so sweet as huckleberries are more tart than sweet but perhaps they added extra sugar to offset the tartness of the berries.
I was disappointed that I could not sample more, specifically their bourbon whiskey, but I was not about to ask my “neighbor” if I could have a sip of their samples because… well… they were in fact strangers. And who wants a strange girl (me) asking a stranger if they can have a sip of their drink?
The Grand Teton Distillery is located at 1755 N Highway 33 in Driggs Idaho. There is also a tasting room located in Jackson Wyoming at 70 S Glenwood St.