“Cocktail Hour in Jackson Hole” will get a little more local next year if two businessmen succeed in opening what they say would be the Tetons’ first legal distillery.
Jackson Hole Still Works is the brainchild of longtime friends Travis Goodman and Chas Marsh. They hope to have some locally produced gin and vodka on the shelves by summertime — if everything goes right.
Although their plans, announced Dec. 11, are for what they call artisanal grain-to-bottle vodka, gin and whiskey, the fact is that whiskey takes a while to age. The gin and vodka, however, may flow sooner.
“We’re not launching it unless we like it,” Marsh said.
They eventually plan to offer tastings at their distillery.
First on the market will be the clear spirits. The pair said they have absolutely no plans to delve into the realm of flavored spirits, like citrus- or berry-infused vodkas.
They are still sourcing key ingredients and say they’ll keep things as local as possible.
“It’s more important to be high quality than to be purely local,” Goodman said. He said the “grain is going to be as local as we can make it.”
Potatoes are definitely off the table — their gin and vodka will be based solely in grain and distilled through a process with a lot of flexibility in filtration. The more alcohol is filtered to remove congeners, the more neutral its taste.
That’s where the recipes and discernment of the distiller comes in.
While the plans and the ingredients may be works in progress, construction has yet to start on their building. Like Melvin Brewing, a Jackson firm that is building a beer brewery and bottling plant in Alpine, the distillery will be housed in an easy-to-assemble metal building.
Unlike Melvin, Jackson Hole Still Works’ home will rise somewhere in Teton County, though the location remains undisclosed.
They hope to break ground within the next few months, weather allowing, finish the complex permitting process and set up the still for production.
Marsh, 40, a homebrew beer hobbyist who recently earned an MBA degree, said many of the details — such as trademarked products — can’t yet be disclosed.
One thing is for sure: They can’t wait to turn on the equipment, they said, though they have to wait by law.
Marsh said the business will be community-oriented and involved; they hope to devote a part of their profits to supporting the environmental community.
The products will be marketed within Wyoming first, with an eye for expansion later.
Marsh and Goodman said they’ve known each other for 15 years and collectively have 25 years of experience in the valley.
Devoted outdoorsmen, they’re already assessing the impact a start-up will have on their next couple years of fly-fishing.
They met at a tennis and swim club where Marsh, an employee of one of Goodman’s boyhood friends, was busy tying flies for his charter fishing business. A friendship was born.
Goodman has been here since 1999. Marsh lived here from 2000 to 2008 before going to Denver and getting his degree. He recently returned to Jackson Hole.
Goodman said distilling is a challenging business to break into due to the “burden of entry,” which includes heavy regulation and the challenge of finding real estate in Teton County.
Nonetheless, the pair said they’ve heard there are others out there trying to create distilleries in Jackson Hole.
Regardless of what they said would be welcome competition, they said they’ll just keep working on building their business, as Marsh put it, on “the bootstrap model … life on a budget, for sure.”
Go to JHStillWorks.com to follow the business’ progress.