Master distiller Steve Nally, formerly of Maker's Mark, keeps it smooth.
Leave it to three attorneys in Jackson Hole to found Wyoming’s first legal distillery and then make the state’s first bourbon suitable for anything other than starting campfires. They call it Wyoming Whiskey. “We’re aiming for something smooth, not like the hard stuff cowboys home brewed,” says partner David DeFazio, who spent some formative years in Kentucky bourbon country.
Brad and Kate Mead, who run a Teton County cattle ranch, teamed up with DeFazio to build a 4,500-square-foot distillery in Kirby, population 92. The town just happens to sit astride the same kind of aquifer touted by big Kentucky distilleries. “The Bighorn Basin has everything you need to make great bourbon—corn from Thermopolis, wheat from Meeteetse, and barley from Riverton—as well as water from artesian limestone wells in Worland,” says Brad Mead, whose grandfather Cliff Hansen was a U.S. senator and Wyoming governor.
Knowing little more about bourbon than how to enjoy it, the Wyoming Whiskey group sought out two Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Famers: Steve Nally, formerly of Maker’s Mark, and Lincoln Henderson, formerly of Brown-Forman. Striving for a sipping bourbon—“I like mine straight,” Brad Mead says—the group is waiting until December 1 to release the first of the 1,300 barrels it will produce annually. Visitors are welcome to test the progress at the distillery. Tours are offered Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. (307) 864-2116, wyomingwhiskey.com.
Photography courtesy of David DeFazio
This article was first published in July 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.