With the amount of distilleries and breweries popping up all around the valley, it's getting difficult to keep up—both in knowledge and imbibing. But there's plenty of booze to go around and plenty of time to cover ti all, so we'll do our best to let you know of awesome things as they flow through the boulevard. Today we're chatting with Outlaw Distillery. Launched at the start of 2015, the distillery has been cranking a fantastic supply of rum, moonshine and whiskey out of their Sandy-based location. Today we chat with co-founder Kirk Sedgwick about starting the place up and brewing his specialty drinks. (All pictures courtesy of Outlaw Distillery.
Gavin: Hey Kirk! First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am 43, just a regular guy, I have a wife of two years who is part owner of the distillery. I have 2 kids, 16 and 19, my wife has 1 that is 6. I have always been interested in the state’s history of The Outlaw Trail and Butch Cassidy and The Wild Bunch. That is where we got the idea for the name of our distillery.
Gavin: When did you first take an interest in alcohol and the process behind it?
I have been interested in the process of alcohol for about 10 years now. It started with brewing beer at home, and progressed into the distilling of spirits over the years.
Gavin: What were some of your personal favorite choices for drinking over the years?
I have always been interested in the craft-made beers and spirits. To name a few: Uinta beers and Stranahan's, Dancing Pines, Zaya and Don Julio. They are constantly changing.
Gavin: I read that you were a diesel mechanic prior to this. What made you get into that field of work?
I really enjoyed fixing and building things. Over the years, I have built several cars and trucks. I built my house myself. The diesel mechanic was also my reason for starting the distillery.
Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up you own distillery?
After 27 years of repairing large equipment, it has taken its toll on my body. I have had knee and shoulder surgery. The nerves burned in my back, and I am still in constant pain. I had to make a change. The distillery seemed like the perfect thing to do. I really enjoy doing it and I am good at it.
Gavin: What was it like for you doing research and learning everything you needed to know to get into distilling?
Fun. Lots of fun. I have read just about every book I have been able to get my hands on. I enjoy reading. I have taken a few specialty classes. Learned and lot of things the hard way. But for the most part, it is always lots of fun to learn new things.
Gavin: What was the process like for you in getting the equipment you needed and setting up the facility?
As far as getting the equipment, I built most of it myself from scratch. Fabricating and welding it all myself. A couple of things I made from repurposed items. But most everything has been built be me. And continues to be.
Gavin: Were there any major tie-ups working with the state to get licensing and other permits or did it go smoothly?
Working with the state has been pretty easy, other than they are very slow in everything they do. But for the most part, it has been a good experience.
Gavin: How much work was it getting everything set up, running, financed, etc. before opening?
To get everything set up was the hardest part. It took me about a year to build all the equipment and about six months to set up the building and the equipment to be ready to go. Plus another six months to get all the permits from the feds and the state. This was the toughest part.
Gavin: When choosing drinks, what made you go for rum, whiskey, and moonshine?
When I decided to make certain spirits I choose the one that I really like myself. I have always liked rum so it was a natural first pick. The more I got into craft made whiskeys, the more I really liked them, and I have always liked unaged whiskeys and moonshines; they are just hard to find that are made good. Most are awful.
Gavin: What's the process like for you when creating a new batch and getting it where you want it?
On creating something new, you start to come up with something in your head and throw it around for a while thinking about the different components of the mash and how it will affect the finished product. Then when I decide to go with it, I will make it with what I think will taste the best. After I have distilled that first batch, I will taste it and experiment with different aging ideas to see what works best. I will tweak the ingredients from there to get exactly what I am going for.
Gavin: You currently have five drinks available, tell us a little bit about each one.
All of our spirits are made to be very smooth and able to be sipped on their own. First our rum is a full flavored rum that has been aged in French oak which gives it a very nice vanilla, caramel flavor to start with and finishes with a sweet flavor of molasses. Our spiced rum is spiced with real ground spices instead of extracts. We use a special blend of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla and others to create a very different and delicious tasting spiced rum. Our white whiskey is made from wheat with some oats added. This makes a very smooth and somewhat sweet drink that have the flavor of wheat and oatmeal. Our bourbon is a wonderful experience in bourbons. We age it in American oak barrels and then when it is done we finish it on French oak which imparts a vanilla and caramel flavor to start and finishes with a nice cinnamon flavor. Our moonshine is made from a sweet feed mash. We use the same grain bill as the bourbon and also some molasses. This makes for a very complex flavor. It starts off with a sweat run flavor and finishes with the corn moonshine flavors and everything in between you will pick out so many different flavor profiles in this spirit.
Gavin: How has it been for you coming up at a point in time where Utah is seeing a major distillery boom?
It has been great. We have come along early in this. There is the start of a major craft distilling movement in the country and it is in the infancy right now. We hope to see many more to help continue the shift in the consumer to buy craft like it has for the craft beer industry. Hopefully, Utah will follow the rest of the country in this trend.
Gavin: What's it been like for you getting the word out and getting your drinks into local and national bars?
It has been a challenge to get the word out. It has also been a challenge to get into bars and restaurants. Utah restricts us to the point where we are not allowed to take our product to a place of business to let them sample. They have to come to the distillery, and to get them to do that has been very difficult. The big name distributors take samples into the places all the time and the state does nothing, but they hold our distiller's license in their hands, so we don’t dare.
Gavin: Do you have any plans to expand or new concoctions on the way?
We do have a couple spirits in the closet that will come out next year sometime
if all goes well. We will expand as production makes it necessary.
Gavin: What can we expect from you and Outlaw Distiller going into next year?
We are planning more advertising and shows to really get out the brand name. We will be doing some special bar nights and some special events over the summer. We like to support charity events. We have been supporting the Cruisers For Kids that raises money for Shriners Hospital, Ducks Unlimited, and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School fundraiser. We have many things planned in the future for outlaw distillery to come.