David Perkins: Utah’s High West Whiskey Pioneer

By Tom Kelly Jan 7, 2020
Meet David Perkins, a lifelong skier and former biochemist whose tourist visit to a Kentucky distillery led to a new chapter in ski town history.
David Perkins: Utah’s High West Whiskey Pioneer

Episode 5 - January 7, 2020

Skiing is more than carving lines down a mountain. It’s a lifestyle, with hospitality and camaraderie a part of the cultural experience we love at resorts. Sipping fine whiskey has proven to be a good blend for skiers and snowboarders.

Enter David Perkins, a lifelong skier and former biochemist whose tourist visit to a Kentucky distillery led to a new chapter in ski town history. Perkins opened High West inside an old Park City garage in 2006, ushering in a new era of hospitality. A true Utah pioneering story, High West became the first true ski town distillery.

In this episode of Last Chair, the Ski Utah Podcast, David Perkins shares the story of how he and wife Jane conceived High West one day in Kentucky and then brought a distillery to Utah. Naturally, the whiskey aficionado will sample several unique High West with host Tom Kelly, offering insights into the unique blends. Check it out.

Episode 5 - Transcript

00:00:13 Happy New Year, Utah, skiers and riders. We hope you had a wonderful holiday and got out to make some turns. Hi, I'm Tom Kelly, your host for last chair from Ski, Utah. Telling the story of the greatest snow on Earth. What a great holiday we had across Utah with a couple of nice storms bringing in fresh powder for all of our holiday guests heading into January.

00:00:34 Weather still looking great out at the resorts across the state. Today, we're going to take a step off the slopes a bit. As much as all of us love carving a line down the mountain, one of the pieces that makes our sports so great is the camaraderie and hospitality that brings us all together. Our guest this week on Last Share is maybe an unlikely player in the Utah ski story. David Perkins is a passionate skier and biochemist who 16 years ago decided to take a risk and follow his passion and open up a whiskey distillery in Utah. Together with his wife, Jane, since its founding in 2006, is one of the very first ski resort distilleries, High West has set the standard and started literally an avalanche of distillery openings at resorts across America. But it all started right here in Utah. David, welcome to last year. Thanks for joining us. Well, thanks for having me. Now, I know you're a passionate skier, and I'm imagining that you got out to make a few turns over the holiday.

00:01:33 Well, I did. Even with all the crowds here, what I really love is the back country now. And so I lucky enough to have a son that wants to do it with me. And my daughter joined in this year. So we go back country skiing as family where she had over the holidays. If I can get over ninety nine ninety, that's one of my favorite things to do. But in the meantime we train a lot with the team.

David Perkins  Tom Kelly tasting Highwest whiskey

00:01:52 There's a ski mountaineering team and we go up either late at night at Park City Mount Resort after 6:00 p.m. or we go up the up highway.

00:02:02 Yeah, I'm just getting into backcountry myself. I had a wonderful outing in Big Cottonwood. We went up a bear trap fork to go up to the Willows, which I think is just kind of off the backside of Nigel off the backside. And I know you get there from there as well. That's right. Do you ever ski from the side country exit on ninety nine ninety down into Big Cottonwood.

00:02:20 Yeah. Yeah. We love that. We love. I mean in fact it's more convenient for us because we live over here so we don't have to drive over there. So we have the resort pass and we get up there. Now I appreciate the skull and crossbones at the at the gate when we go out, but we've been sufficiently trained.

00:02:34 You know, when you when you drop over the big cottonwood, how do you get back up to Park City? Do you ski back up and drop down or. Yeah. Same like we ski back up to nine nine. Nine. Had been. Have somebody come over and pick you up?

00:02:44 No, no. Just what we earn. We we have to take back. So we climb back up. And you know, that's part of the fun because then we earned what we eat that night.

00:02:52 Yeah. Oh, that's for sure. And I had a really good time. I took my aerie level one avalanche training last year. So I feel good that I've got that knowledge. But it is I'm an amazing asset to have this literally as we sit in your barn looking out on it right now.

00:03:07 It's hard to imagine living anywhere else with such access. Like we have. We're so lucky, you know?

00:03:11 How did you originally get into skiing? Where did you grow up?

00:03:14 I grew up. I was born in Denver. Littleton and my parents moved away when I was nine. And I I we don't have any money then. And the skiers always from Denver. So we went skiing once when I lived there. Just once. Just once and went to a winter park. And I remember it distinctly and loved it. And when we moved, I was raised in Georgia. And I think I had to ski trips when I was raised in Georgia. Once up to North Carolina and once out west.

00:03:38 And so you did ski North Carolina?

00:03:39 We did ski North Carolina and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, as well. So our big sheets of ice and, you know, thousands of people. But, you know, I love sliding downhill.

00:03:48 So, you know. You know, I often ask people from the south if they ski down there, have a friend of mine, used to be on the U.S. ski team machine or husband on a resort down there. And most everybody says, no, he'd just come out west. But I'm glad to hear you least gave it a try.

00:04:02 Oh, it's beautiful. You know, when you get good snow, which is very rare. It's beautiful. The mountains are beautiful there.

00:04:07 What did you remember? What was some of the magic that got you excited about skiing when you were young?

00:04:12 I mean, I think it's really just when you're young and sliding downhill and having that gravity feeling that for me is high speed and gravity hard to resist.

00:04:22 So let's let's say we're going to ultimately tell the High West Story. But I think it's really important to learn a little bit about how you got there. And I know that you became a biochemist and maybe talk a little bit about the early part of your career, setting the stage for what you ultimately did with High West.

00:04:39 Sure. I I wanted to be a doctor and I majored in chemistry, in school biochemistry. And at the end of school, I decided, you know, maybe medical school wasn't really where it said, I might think I wanted to get into business. So I got a job in biotech and I sold biotech products when the AIDS virus came out. So they're spending more money on molecular biology research at that time. And that was a lot of fun for me. And I then decide I want to go to business school. And I went to Dartmouth and I really wanted to go there because of the. And that, you know, with a skier is 20 minutes away and I've never been in New England and I'd never skeet ice like that, and it was wonderful.

00:05:20 So did you see the drama ski away? Oh, yeah, yeah. You know, you could buy a season pass for 80 bucks or something like that. So we had the two worst years of snow and I have to be there. But, you know, we still had snow and it was a lot of fun.

00:05:31 And I learn how to ski ice. So did you get up to the bigger mountains at all? I mean, Christo and Killington. Yeah, that we don't have a lot of money in school. But, you know, we were able to go there every now and then. There's a lot of fun. I mean, I enjoy those areas. It's beautiful there.

00:05:43 Yeah. When where were you living when you started working in the field? Where were you living?

00:05:49 Well, I lived in D.C. I lived in L.A. and I lived in San Francisco. So from D.C., I would go to Seven Springs and blue top or blue knobs. Hillary Clinton mania. And then when I lived in L.A., we'd go to Mammoth and Big Bear and live in San Francisco. We go to Killington, Army, Kirkwood and Tahoe. And, you know, we know the skier is everywhere we live. So you've carried that passion everywhere you've lived? Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, the mountains are important to me and skiing. I just love the winter sports. Yeah.

00:06:17 So tell me the story about how you came upon this idea. You were a biochemist and somehow you got this idea that maybe you could take that skill and do something a little bit different.

00:06:30 Well, I was going to do my own thing. I was lucky enough to work for two really great startups that became very big companies, one called Amgen, one called Genentech. And those were like Microsoft and Apple in the drug world. And I got to see companies go from zero to 60 very big companies with very sophisticated people. And I learned a lot. So they I cut my teeth there, but I always wanted to mount them, didn't know what that was. One day, my wife and I were at a wedding in Kentucky for my cousin. And we said, let's go to a distillery. Never been to one. I had a bottle of Maker's Mark in my cabinet. We went to Maker's Mark.

00:07:04 Were you a whiskey drinker at the time?

00:07:05 Oh, you know, if I had a bottle of my cabinet, we'd have stuff every weekend. But I wouldn't call myself an efficient auto. And that's why I had a bottle rum. I had a bottle whiskey. Yeah, I like brown spirits. Yeah. And we went to distillery. You walk in distillery and it is the exact same business as Amgen, Genentech, Amgen, agent tech make drugs of biotechnology. Whiskey is a drug. Ethanol made with biotechnology, yeast. Same thing, same business. And that's where the light bulb went off. So.

00:07:33 So you're one of those people on the tour who's kind of thinking beyond what the tour guide is telling you. Looking at all the chemistry that's going on up there.

00:07:41 Yeah. I mean, you walk in, you see the same equipment. You see know fermentation tanks, you see distillation apparatus. It's literally the same stuff. And then the tour guide we were live in, in Palo Alto at the time, the tour guide was it was folksy and kind of fun. But if you're used to Napa and you've been in Napa, Osuna of universe. sophisticated and you hear a great education in Kentucky, it was more folksy. And I thought, you know, we could do better than that. So that was where the idea really spawned. And we went into the barrel warehouse, which if you've never been to one, you should. They're very special places. One building with 25000 barrels. And you walk in and it smells like vanilla and caramel. And who doesn't like vanilla and caramel? And that's where the light bulb went off for me. And I told my wife, I said, you know, we oughta make whiskey or at least think about it.

00:08:31 And this was at Maker's Mark. There was a Makaha. How did you. What was was the barrel area part of the tour?

00:08:37 Yeah, I was. But it was at the end of the tour. And so, you know, you learn the process and I take you through. And at the end you go through Barillaro and you get a little taste, which is great. But it's really the smell and the silence and all these things. Somebody put these away 10 years ago and they've been sitting there for that long. And, you know, how do you get into that business, first of all? But just fashioning thought that somebody put those in there and they're sitting there patiently aging. That just astounded me.

00:09:05 So there's a lot of people in that business. What was different in your mind and what did you think that you could offer that would make you unique in that business?

00:09:15 I'm a great question. And absolutely. That's the first thing we thought about two things. One is on the tour, it wasn't educational enough. And I didn't really walk away knowing more about whiskey. I knew about Maker's Mark, but as a newbie to whiskey, I didn't know that much more a little bit. So I thought we could do a better job telling people about whiskey and helping them understand and appreciate it. Second, that night in our hotel room, we watched High Plains Drifter. Is just coincidental. So you wonder where the name High West Distillery came from? Well, we're not in the Deep South. We're not in the Lower East. We're not in the far west. We're in the high west and high plains drifter. So at that time, we wanted to move where in California? We were looking to move to Utah. We didn't know what we're gonna do. But that's where the light bulb went off. And my west whiskey. There were no Western whiskey. So back to your question. What would we do different? Educate people and then offer them a Western product and a Western product seen around a western town. Everybody knows what miners drink. Irvine knows what cowboys drink. Skiers drink whiskey. Skiers like you introduced the segment as it's this comraderie sport. Will you need that here? And you need that Opry's Skeen, you need a spirit or a beer to help with the camaraderie. And we didn't have it here and we just thought that was a natural.

00:10:32 Did you did you literally go back to the hotel that night and start mapping it out in your mind?

00:10:38 We mapped out the idea in the brand. That's right. You know, we had have a Western brand and we looked up, you know. Were there any Western brands or whiskey? There really weren't. At the time, there were a couple of the guys starting them, but nothing commercially available yet. There is a whiskey Nakao bullet whiskey that it started in in a test market. And it's it's grown substantially. But there were no Western craft whiskeys. And we thought, gosh, if we could put it in a place, it's a little easier to get to than Kentucky because we drove 2 hours of Maker's Mark. Yeah. And if we could put it in a resort town where people are already there, gosh, maybe that was our marketing plan, you know?

00:11:11 So you had already been thinking about how can we move to Utah and then this idea germinates in your mind. That's right. Did you did you look around a little bit? Or had was Park City on your radar?

00:11:24 Well, it was. I mean, you know, any mountain was on our radar just because we wanted to live in the mountains. We were tired of L.A. and San Francisco and having when I grew up, my parents had two cars, their both jeeps where Le Mans every weekend. So for me, the mountains were in my bones. So it had to be mountain. So we looked at Jackson Hole. We looked at Sun Valley, we looked at Telluride. They're all hard to get to parks. That is not so parks. He was kind of a natural. It was it started to be first on the list and then it ended first on licious because it's know easy.

00:11:53 So as you were looking around these ski towns for a place to locate this company. Were you chatting it up with any of the locals about what your idea was, your concept?

00:12:05 Well, there's one local I met here is named Greg Cerf and up or he was cheerleader number one. So did you search him out, by the way? Well, you know, I got to introduce him by a good friend of ours, Rick Bryden, who's an architect in town. And he said, gosh, I got the guy you got to meet. And, you know, we sat down, Greg, and then two hours later, I was three feet off the ground floatin because Greg was just, you know, we got to make this happen.

00:12:27 So, yeah, for those who don't know. Greg, Sheriff, he's a.. I'm from Wisconsin. Greg is as well. And he came out here to Park City in the 80s. And in 1986, he was successful in changing the laws in Utah to allow a microbrewery up on Main Street, which became Wasatch Brewing was really one of the first, if not the first craft brewery in a resort town in America. And I imagine he had some good direction for you.

00:12:54 He's the father of alcohol and Utah ruling other than Brigham Young. And Greg had a lot of advice. And, you know, it was a great friend, a great mentor, a great cheerleader.

00:13:07 Did did you think one of the things that is you look at High West, you look at the location and the buildings that that you were able to acquire. What was the process of finding that home for the company?

00:13:21 Well, you know, Greg said, you know, you got to find a place to put this. And I said, oh, God. That's the hardest part. He said, I'll know there's only one place you could be. And I said, What? He said, the old barn, you know, the old stable down at the bottom to make sure the natural growth is nothing going on there at the time.

00:13:34 Nah, nah. I mean, it was just I think, you know, they were using the house as empty cause the Watson moved out and they were renting out the national garage. As for people put stuff in.

00:13:47 So Greg said no, that's gotta be your place. I thought, oh my God, there's no way. And he said, well, let's just go to our city hall and make a pitch for it. So he took me to the city hall. And, you know, they have open mike session. And, you know, he says, here's my good friend Dave. He wants to start a distillery. Dave, you're up. And then I felt like the guy talking to The Wizard of Oz and I was a little scared, but I told him what I wanted to do. And I like that seems like a pretty good idea. So they were receptive. They were at the time. They'd actually bid it out to a guy that is going to build a glassblowing shop there, if you remember that. And it took him away. He never came up with the money. And so they rebuilt it out. And, you know, he could have bid just as anybody. And we bid for that. And I think 30 other people bid for it. And luckily, we won the bid.

00:14:30 So, you know, what did you need to do in terms of laws when you came here? Was were the laws of the states such that you were able to move in or did you need to get. Some things adjusted to accommodate a small distillery.

00:14:45 Well, believe it or not, the ABC actually had a law on the books for a distillery. They didn't even know it. So I went down there and asked and, you know, they go to back to the big book and look. And the guy says, yeah, sure enough, here you can have a distillery here. It's already accounted for. So nobody knew that. I didn't know that until we asked. There was a little bit better than what Greg had to deal. That's right. So they must have put it in when they change the laws for Greg, but they didn't even know when they put it in. But, you know, at least we asked. Well, that was the great thing. And what did happen was they just some of the laws after that to make it easier for us to sell on site and things like that.

00:15:17 So did you find the whole process to be relatively accommodating to what you were trying to do is.

00:15:22 I do actually believe or not. I mean, the ABC was quite helpful. You know, they weren't opposed to this at all. And they actually liked the idea and they wanted to help. So, you know, within the constraints of law and they bent over backwards to help us do what we needed to do. So. So great process.

00:15:37 So this was something really different for the community. Do you have any fun stories to share about some of the challenges maybe you did have in bringing a very different business into town?

00:15:46 Well, I think the biggest one was, you know, people being afraid of what a distillery is and does. And, you know, the people in the backyard of the building didn't really like the idea because they thought it would blow up or create fires or stink or things like that.

00:16:00 And, you know, through an education process where all to convince people there's the very large distilleries and breweries and places that aren't defensive and we were going to be a small place. So as it turned out, OK.

00:16:10 But as an education process, like anything, you know, as is I can recall from that time period. You also have to get up and running. You actually started distilling in other locations and storing before you actually were operating here, is that right?

00:16:25 Well, a couple of things. I mean, one, we set up a pilot distillery in Gregs Warehouse down in Salt Lake. So that's where we started our process and got our license. And then to get the business going and meet the cash flow needs, we bought whiskeys from other distilleries, which that's, I think what you're referring to. So we did what we thought was a very new and innovative strategy, an approach to it, which turns out it wasn't that just people never knew that.

00:16:50 That's how a lot of the liquor that gets to them happens. I think it happens in the wine business as well. It happens that every business that Brooks Brothers shirts your work is not made by a Brooks Brothers factory. It's made by some factory, China or whatever. And let the record show. I'm not wearing a Brooks Brothers shirt, though, today. That's right. Or L.L.Bean or whatever. But it was an education process again for us to teach people.

00:17:09 There's a lot of products that they get that aren't necessarily made by the name on the bottle. And we were honest about it, which a lot of other people weren't. Yeah. So that's what I think helped us in the long run was, you know, we're creating these blends that didn't exist from disparate products and we one plus one equals three in the case of a lot of our products in in that time period.

00:17:28 Were you starting to put, though, your stamp on the product characteristics and the quality of the product?

00:17:35 I think so. I mean, I I'm very proud of the fact that almost all of our products were rated 90 points or higher. And you know, what we were able to do in our blends was create something you couldn't buy was if you have 2 to 4 flavor profiles and Melbourne together, you end up with a better product sometimes. And that's exactly what we did. Had that happened, was that much of that being done in the whisky industry at the time, it was the other innovation was telling people about it. And you know, marketing is more than just advertisments and the Swedish bikini team. It's education and helping the consumer understand why they're paying for what they're paying for. And we were very forward on our education. What's in the bottle? What's it going to taste like and how how's it made?

00:18:20 We're very clear about that, where a lot of companies don't take the time to tell their customers that as a biochemist, where did you get that kind of marketing sense or sense of brand that you're talking about here? Because this is this is great marketing. And I'm not sure I would think that a biochemist would would have that.

00:18:38 Well, my biochemistry career was short. And then when I got my master's in business, my first job out of school was in marketing for drug companies. And you might say, well, drug companies don't really need to market all he needs a 1 800 number. Well, it turns out doctors are the best people to market to. And all they want are the facts. And if you're very clear with them and in organizing your thoughts, marketing does affect doctors, but it's factual based, not bullshit based.

00:19:05 And I think that's what I brought from pharma or biotech to booze was most booze is bullshit and we don't really do that in the pharma industry. And I think that's where I got it from, you know? What was your first whiskey? My first whiskey. You know, I think I snuck someone. I was a kid, probably. Jim Beam was probably first whiskey. And I remember my wife when when we were married and had our first kid when she was pregnant, we would drink whiskey to kind of calm her. So that was Jimmy.

00:19:37 And as you introduced the High West Line.

00:19:41 Was Rendezvous the first product that you running's was our first track, so we start. How was the maker of whiskey? You actually distill it and make it. And then I met a guy that ran a distillery called Four Roses, which is a well-known distillery now. And he brought them back from the dead based on quality. And he was one of my closest advisers. And he said, you know, you gotta to buy whiskey and sell it as your own. And if I were you, I'd buy rye. And at the time, nobody drank. Right. And so I tasted this rye rendezvous. There's a couple arise. One is made in an old Seagrams plant that they make Seagrams seven and Crown out of. Those are blends. We pluck the rye out of those blends and soda and so on, which nobody had ever had. And then we mixed some 16 year old in. And that was a different innovative product that nobody ever had. And we took a bet on that.

00:20:30 So, you know, what was the product that really caused the company to to move forward to Buran?

00:20:39 When we say time, we have running. We had a vodka. And in order by such gods, you have a vodka. I don't we don't sell that much now. We also introduced two older products or three or at night. Sixteen year old Ryan, a 21 year old Ryan. They were 80 bucks, 100 bucks. People weren't used to paying that much for products. Then Rendezvous was 35 or 40 bucks, you know. And we got a double gold on that. Then we got the best value. Got a ninety five point rating from Whiskey Advocate, which is the the major publication. And we got the best value high points for the best price whiskey. And that's what took us to take off.

00:21:15 You know, let's let's look around to some other resorts. And one of the things that struck me in researching this, this interview, was that there really were no other distilleries at ski resorts. I think that Wyoming Whiskey up in Jackson was starting at about the same time. But you were really pioneering at that point. There was no other example out there.

00:21:35 Yeah. You know, there was a couple in one Oregon Crater Lake, one an Idaho Bardin, a they weren't resorts, though. And the one in Java, they're not Jackson. They're really on the middle of nowhere. And Demopolis or something like that. And then there's one of Colorado in Denver. So I'd say we were the first in a resort, which was surprising to me that no one had thought of it yet. But it was nice. I'm used early for for distilling. There were 50 distilleries when we submitted for our license in the United States, 50 in the United States, the United States.

00:22:08 Now there's twenty five hundred fifty to twenty five hundred over 15 years.

00:22:13 That's right. And before prohibition, I think there were maybe 10000. So mental one could look at the tea leaves and say, well, maybe there's a cycle here and it might come back. And that was kind of one thing. I placed a bet on. Yeah. You know, I thought just made sense. And to put it into a ski resort or people are coming, you rather in the middle of Kentucky where they're not, they have to seek you out. I thought that just made a lot more sense.

00:22:35 Let's talk a little bit about this, this concept of camaraderie in hospitality. You know, I look at what we have in here in Utah and particularly right here in Park City. We have wonderful restaurants. We have several breweries. We have some great resorts that are really focused on customer service. And you brought a new product in with with whiskey and an inn and really built quite an amazing brand. It's really one that's built around hospitality.

00:23:06 Yeah, that's right. I mean, I think for us, getting that building at the bottom of quitting time run was probably the most important thing to me and the luckiest thing that could've happened as being on the ski run. So we called ourselves the world's only ski and gastro distillery and we researched about gastro. And I got lucky to meet James Domus, ah, head chef. And we put a lot of money into that building and fixing up and making it feel authentic. And even if we didn't make money on the restaurant, we knew it would attract people to come in and learn about the spirits. And that was that was the bet we made. And it paid off.

00:23:41 It worked out as we were talking about before the interview. I grew up in the Midwest. I was a beer drinker, maybe a little bit of brandy, old fashioned because I was from Wisconsin. But I really had never grown to maybe understand or like whiskeys. But I think High West has really changed that. And if I look back at the history and what has transformed over the last 15 years is you really did educate people on what it was and why it's a little bit different in how it can be a part of your whole experience.

00:24:16 I think that it's changed a lot. Alcohol consumption, the United States bottomed out per capita in 1998. Believe it or not, it's not that long ago. It hit a peak in the 70s, bottomed out and on its way up. You know, first was just cheap whiskey, and that's what the companies focused on. But as newer products start coming out, everybody got into the game. If you have to educate your. Because if you're gonna raise your prices and charge more, people, got to know what they're paying for. And so that was a big part of our strategy, was to not only help people understand what whisky is so they could start to enjoy but understand how to appreciate it more because educationalist appreciation and in that ritual of being in a ski town and that ritual of Opry's ski centers around alcohol. And we wanted to be a part of that and help that and help grow that and make it a special thing in Park City.

00:25:08 You were also successful in taking the high W brand, not just around the United States, but really around the world. And I remember the first time that I was skiing somewhere over in Europe. And I look at the back bar and there's a bottle of high w long ways from home.

00:25:22 You know, there were we've heard of strange places, how it got there. And usually those are by aficionados or kind of stores that just tasted it, loved it and smuggled it back to put it on the bar, which was fun and surprising always to see. I loved getting pictures of high western Venice or Vienna or wherever.

00:25:39 So, yeah, it's you know, for me it's like a little bit of little bit of home. When you're over in Colorado and you see a bottle of high W up up on the bar. I know that you you sold your interest in the company a few years ago, but you're still closely connected and still an ambassador for the brand.

00:25:59 Well, I mean, it's such it's always in the heart. And, you know, I don't work there anymore, but I sure have it in art and sell it whenever I can. And, you know, I love seeing the old employees stop. Always a big part of us, you know.

00:26:13 So we want to try a little bit here. And we've got three bottles we're going to taste. And David, if you could do the honors and let's let's start with a little rendezvous and oh, we're going to do a do a little tasting here in the barn here off of Old Ranch Road in Park City.

00:26:30 We're gonna start with a little rendezvous ride, one of the originals from High West and David. Oh, look at that. Nice and golden.

00:26:39 Ok, so Ronnie. Whoo! This was our first product. And I think it's probably you forced me with a gun to my head. What my favorite is, it's probably right. But I mean, well, we came with them all. We came out with all these products for a reason. They all have different taste profiles that we could help people understand and appreciate whiskey. And not everybody always likes the same thing. So but rendezvous, what's beautiful about it is it's Orion really died out and it's really only come back in last 10 years. But we know that ride was a big part of the whiskey drinking scene before Prohibition. So it it's different than bourbon because it's made from rye. Greenberg was made from corn. Corn's a little sweeter. Ryssdal The spicier, if you think, a rye bread. Mm hmm. So you get these beautiful what I call Christmas malling spices from the rye. And, you know, when you smell it for me, I get all spice, nutmeg and gloom. And that's what I love about running Iran. You get that just at Christmas morning. Spice profiling just smells wonderful. And I could smell it all night. Tom So I'm just saying let's drink it here. Well, here's here's.

00:27:50 Oh, goodness me, is so good. So, yeah, it for me it's Christmas malling spices, just beautiful cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and little drier than a bourbon. So I love rock.

00:28:03 Oh, that's a that's a great description. Spoken from the Masters lips.

00:28:07 Well, gosh, it is. It's just delicious to have a sip of at five o'clock, my mouth salivates when I get to 5 o'clock every day and I love having a little nip.

00:28:20 I like your description of being at the bottom of quittin time. It's just a great way to kind of calm down and make that last run and.

00:28:30 Oh, I love your skis. I'm on record time. And you know, only when it's not icy.

00:28:36 It's icy a lot that deters a fun run to come down and come into the restaurant. We just were thankful we were able to get a place right there and be part of that ritual of our free ski, you know.

00:28:47 One a one of the things that my wife, Carol and I have really enjoyed about High West is the are the small little rooms, the parlor rooms upstairs, although they're just a wonderful place to have a little bit of a different quiet experience from what you have downstairs at the bar. And we always try to jostle our way to get up into there and find a spot, a great place to bring guests.

00:29:12 Oh, I love that building. And all the different rooms are Sodini can. It's nice to be able get quiet and then that historic house. Great. Yeah.

00:29:18 It really is. Okay. So what do we have up next?

00:29:21 Mm hmm. Okay. Well, I thought we would go on to a bigger whiskey because Ronnie was so good. You want to step up if you can. And one of our special whiskeys we came out was called Bull, right? Mm hmm. And I remember getting a package in the mail of some whiskey samples from Kentucky. And, you know, we had a couple rides, a couple of bourbons, and the whole taste was good. And I thought, well, what if you mix a couple these together and we mixed a Ryan a bourbon, and I thought, oh, my God, that's delicious.

00:29:51 What are we gonna call it? Ribot Bourbon. And we came up the name that night. Rye. So Rye we have. Yeah. Boogying. We have a jackalope on the label. That's a great lookin jackalope.

00:30:02 It's a it's a bona fide drawing from 1830's from Germany and it's in a, you know, animal book from like a Darwinistic textbook from Germany. So apparently there there are these real animals that have these bony features and that's a real drawing of one. So there you go, Tom. That's crazy.

00:30:21 So but we couldn't think of any other name than Brian. It sort of fits. So there you go. It certainly does.

00:30:27 So butthereis older whiskey's and Riney voom. And so you get the sweet from the bourbon and you get the spice you from the rye. And it's the sweet kind of start kicks in at first. And then the rice, spices, what kind of shifts to the second chapter of this, which sorts a two chapter whiskey boy.

00:30:46 Very nice. Very different smell. How smooth and. It's a richer, thicker whiskey. A little more caramel and it goes down good.

00:31:01 So why why is this smoother than Randy?

00:31:06 Well, smooth sort of. It's a whiskey term. You can hear from novices to aficionados and kind of sewers. And what it really boils down to, at least in my personal opinion, is older whiskeys have been wood and wood longer. Whiskey pulls sugars out of the wood when you add sugar and an alcoholic spirit, which is going to burn sugar kind of calms the burn from ethanol. So an older whiskey has more sugar and it's going to feel a little smoother and not have that quite same burn that the YAHAV whiskey did.

00:31:36 You know, one of my favorites is Campfire. And I know we don't have any hard tasting today, but what gives campfire that unique smoky characteristic?

00:31:45 Yeah, that's a it was a weird blend that we came up with the idea in Scotland and Scotland's known for their smoky whiskeys. And my wife and I were on eila, which is an island on the West Coast and it's spelled I-S L.A. Why some people say is LA and this is your education aside for today. You pronounce it Iowa and. Exactly. And that's where the traditional whiskeys are smoked with Pete. And we had a dish there that inspiringly smoked with Pete. Well, they cut the peat for firewood. And we went and cut some one day. And they look like Doura flame logs. We cut them out. They dry out. Apparently, you've done this before. Oh, yes. OK. Well, on the daara flames. There you go. When you when you make malted barley or malted any grain, which is the key to whiskey, you put water on it in, germinate it and it starts to grow and then you want to stop it from growing. So you essentially kill the little baby if you kill it with heat and then eila. They would have these floors that were perforated and they would put the peat logs underneath and burnam and because the floors are perforated, the smoke went through to kill it. So it they didn't do that on purpose. That's just how they happened to do it. And now it's traditions and people like the taste. Well, we ended up having a we had a dessert and the bed and breakfast there where they took a bottle of whiskey, the eila whiskey, and they reduced it down to a cup. So what do you do with that?

00:33:11 And they put a sugar in it. And for dessert that night, they brought out this simple syrup made from smoky whiskey. So it's a smoky, supple slurp and they drizzle across honey to see the smoke on this honey. Those were just desert overhead. It was delicious. And that was inspiration for the camphor whiskey sweet Biden's fruity bourbon. And so we mixed some scotch with a fruity bourbon that became Khanfar. So Kifah is actually bourbon, rye and scotch. But bourbon is the base sweet. And then you get the smoky from the scotch.

00:33:40 Do you do this experimentation in a secret little lab somewhere in the building?

00:33:45 Well, no, we do out front of everybody. And there's a little lab in the western, a lot most of it's done at home at night. You know, when we're kind of relaxing and having fun, I enjoy you make a mistake and you pour the wrong thing in.

00:33:57 I mean, you make the mistake, you drink it. So you all the mistakes, the making mistakes isn't that bad of a thing. But yeah, we did a lot of experiments that I w and not you know, it seemed to help us sell our product to have different products with different taste profiles. You know, this next product is another example of that. This was an experiment where we had our national sales manager used to make why? And I said, you know, get every wine barrel you can and let's stick whiskey in all those wine barrels. This sort of this result of we tasted maybe 20 of them. And at the tasting of 20 to tasted really good. And then I mixed them together. And at the end of the tasting, it was, my God, this should be a product. So they tasted like Christmas. And so this is called a midwinter night's dream. And we were going to call it Christmas whiskey. Turns out somebody had that name and trademarked it. I was so mad. But this was summertime and my daughter was reading A Midsummer Night's Dream. Yeah. And so I ended up with a better name. We think the whiskey did, too. It's it's rendezvous aged in pork barrels.

00:34:57 So you get kind of a raise in the fruity note on the rendezvous and French oak and French joke has tannins and spiciness, clove spices. So if you get dried raisins and fruits with Christmas spices, it sounds like Christmas cake to me. So that's why I think it tastes like Christmas to me.

00:35:20 So this started with the rendezvous rye we had in our first taste completely different profile.

00:35:27 Yeah, because of the barrels, the wine barrels. So you can taste said fruity kind of deep Sherri's note in there. Yeah. Mixed with the Riney for Christmas spices. And if you've ever had a plum pudding for Christmas, for instance, or fruitcake. But I think more of the plum pudding that you line on fire. And it's the taste I get out of this and oh my God, I just love it. How long is it in those barrels? It depends on how.

00:35:52 They are meaning if it was a one used barrel, they might be in shorter, if we used it three times, it might be longer because you can get that pork flavor out of a barrel after subsequent uses. So it depends on the routine of that barrel.

00:36:06 Have you have you? I think you've done some partnerships with brewers to brew beer in your whiskey barrels, haven't you?

00:36:15 You know, I don't remember us doing. They might have done some now that I don't know about. I know Jamieson has done that. So there have been some whiskeys that have done that.

00:36:28 Well, this has been an amazing experience to hear from the expert about a few of these great high W products in Hama, actually. How many? How many total whiskies did high W develop?

00:36:42 Well, I've heard I mean, we've always had what we call this core for, so double rye rendezvous, American Prairie and Camp Fire, and then we had different specialty whiskeys layered on top of that. So mean winners dram brew rye. But then we had very various bereleased special releases. You could only buy it. Hi Wes. So you know, we're probably up in the 30s or 40s, different whiskeys. But we'll always have the core for that. You know, you can find on the shelf anywhere.

00:37:08 Well, I thank you for spending some time with us today. We're gonna move into the lightning round now where we're gonna try a few questions out and learn a little bit more about you as we close off this interview with David Perkins, the visionary and founder of Hi, Wes. First of all, what was the skier you were you first learned to ski?

00:37:27 Well, it depends on how you define learn. I mean, my first ski area was Winter Park in Colorado, learned to ski. You know, I would say I didn't really learn to ski till I moved to Park City because I was okay, but I really wasn't very good. Yeah, but I've gained a lot of skiers, so I learned to ski. I'd probably say Park City, Mount Resort or Canyons. I moved here when I was 40, but I didn't consider myself a good skier.

00:37:48 Consider yourself a good skier now. I'm better. All right. All right. Favorite ski run in Utah.

00:37:55 Oh, well, if it's not quitting time because we talked about quitting, I'm, you know, in in-bounds versus out bounds inbounds, you know? I actually like the Iron Mountain runs.

00:38:05 Is it Copper Head? And what's the other one that's on the far left when you're going to Mercury Merc? I love Mercury. I like the slope of mercury. I love going fast now. Corporal of Bama down there. Those are fun. I like BOA because it's kind of fun. Most fun up at the top because I like the the slope angle and it gets great powder. I like skiing the powder there. I like Murdoc for powder. Kleiman Murdoc. Yeah. Anything love doing a little boot pack up there. I even get that heart rate. Go on. Yeah. Stuff some large great ski runs, you know, favorite ski resort outside of Utah. Oh, by the way. Well.

00:38:40 You know, we were lucky enough to go to San Anton once wonderful at the recommendation of James Domus, and we stayed in St. Anton. Oh, my God. They know how to do it. They know how to do the the ritual, the average skier, everything there was just glamorous and glorious and beautiful in that. Yeah. That have to be up there. Did you get over the lectern source. We've got to lech. You didn't get the zorah something else. That would've been a long day. I think they were that far. But you know, we won over in her launch. It's a big mountain there, isn't it? I mean, it's like the whole country is linked with ski slope. So it's just amazing how you see from town to town. Wonderful place. I mean, you could write off. You can take the train and just walk off the train and walk to your hotel. And they they know how to do it over there. So I hope we get there because it sure is special doing how, you know, how the Europeans do ski and especially, you know, best on mountain dining experience. How. I mean, you know, the food's changed so much and it's we have a lot of great restaurants. You know? I like the farm a lot. I like Cloud9. You had the donuts at Cloud9. I mean, you know, hot donuts at the Dartmouth skier that they had a small kitchen with hot dogs and hot chocolate, but they're the best fresh donuts there. So the Cloud9 Hasbrouck donuts. So, you know, I'd have to say that's my fair. That's good food. Favorite high west whiskey. You know, I mean, everyone always asks me this and I always say, well, they're all great because we wouldn't have come out with them if they weren't. But I've said that Romney was pretty darn good. Which one? But Ryan, if you know that the first one we started with just it's standard tastes great. Tastes like Christmas morning spices. Who doesn't like malling spices?

00:40:15 Favorite whiskey outside of High West.

00:40:20 The world is filled with great whiskey's and to be forced to pick one is super difficult because there's so many good whiskies. One that has a good memory. You know, if it if if you forced me to I love wild turkey. I love water and want to want. It's a great whiskey. You we've been at the plant. We know the guys would make it for the price. It's try the best whiskey for the price you can buy. I love wild turkey. Want to one but favorite Utah craft beer. Hmm. Well, actually, my favorite. Now, that's an easy one for me. They don't make it anymore. And I'm so mad at Greg for this. It's called Superior. Yeah. And it was. It was a lager spirit lager. And those just delicious. And they discontinued it. And maybe a year after I start working with Greg, but had this Malti kind of beautiful flavor profile to get a campaign going to bring it back. Oh, God, I hope so. Oh, it was such a good beer. I know you love cars, but favorite antique car. Oh, boy. I'm kind of an Alfa Romeo guy. I'm a tiny guy and I love old alpha males and my dream cars of the old Ephram's of the 60s.

00:41:24 So one last question I asked this of everyone groomers, moguls, powder.

00:41:31 Or Glades.

00:41:34 Well, gosh, and I have to say, I had Shannon Barky on a few weeks ago and I thought for sure someone was finally going to pick moguls, but she went with powder like everybody else. Powder's pro.

00:41:45 I mean, it's kind of an easy answer. It's powder. It is an easy answer. And if there's not powder, then it's groomer for me, because groomers are nice here, but nothing like a good groomer day. But powder here, we're all here for the powder. So it's if you answered otherwise, it'd be hard to imagine.

00:42:00 David's been great to have you on.

00:42:01 Thank you for taking some time and tasting a few high west whiskeys and spend some time with us on last year. Thank you. Tom, I appreciate it. It's been a lot of fun. Whiskey and skiing. It's a part of the hospitality culture of our sport. It was a fascinating look into the growth of High West here in Utah. More storms coming. So get out this week and make a few turns on. Tom Kelly, your host for Ski, Utah's last chair. I'll see you on the slopes.