Boot Hill Distillery calls itself a “soil-to-sip” distillery because it is owned by three western Kansas farmers who grow 100 percent of the grain used in crafting its spirits, which has proven to be a winning formula, as the startup recently received national recognition for its vodka.
“We do all the milling, mashing, fermentation, distillation and bottling here on site,” said Mark Vierthaler, director of marketing and distiller at Boot Hill Distillery. “So it’s 100 percent a western Kansas product, which we’re very proud of.”
In a phone interview Wednesday, Vierthaler told High Plains Public Radio that the vodka received a bronze medal at the American Craft Spirits Association’s Fourth Annual Distillers Convention and Vendor Trade Show held in Nashville, Tennessee last week.
According to the American Craft Spirits Association’s website, winners were hand-selected among a record-breaking pool of entrants, up by more than 20 percent over last year.
Vierthaler said Boot Hill Distillery’s vodka went up against distillers who have been at it far longer than he or the distillery’s owners have been.
“It’s new for pretty much all of us. We really started distilling in earnest in May of last year … we actually opened our doors July 30, but didn’t release our first product until November,” he said.
He said the bronze medal was a sign that they are on the right track.
“Now we just want to get the gold medal,” Vierthaler said.
Hayes Kelman, a Sublette farmer, co-owns the distillery with his father, Roger Kelman, who also farms near Sublette, and Chris Holovach, who farms near Scott City.
In a text message sent to High Plains Public Radio on Thursday, Hayes Kelman echoed Vierthaler’s sentiment about the award’s indication that they are on the right track with their products.
“We are very proud of the fact that we were able to release a high-quality, award-winning spirit in such a short amount of time,” Kelman said. “This competition is unique in the fact that it is judged by reputable judges who also provide feedback on the products. We look forward to being able to review this information and constantly improve our products.”
Vierthaler said they like to think of the Boot Hill Distillery as going back to distilling’s historical roots, as most farms in the post-prohibition era were distilleries.
“And Dodge City was started with a bar,” Vierthaler said, and then laughed.
According to Boot Hill Distillery’s website, it utilizes a custom-crafted pot still/two column setup to ensure that every spirit is crafted for maximum drinkability, while still being a wholly unique product of Dodge City.
Vierthaler expressed gratitude to Dodge City and the surrounding communities for supporting the distillery.
“We’re proud to offer a quality product and excited for what the future brings … now to get that gold medal,” he said.