DABC grants first distillery taste-testing permit in Utah to High West Whiskey

Posted at 6:54 PM, Jul 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-29 00:28:25-04

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah -- For the first time a Utah brewery or distillery will be allowed to offer taste testing.  It was a monumental decision made by the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control on Tuesday.

High West Whiskey, out of Wanship, was able to secure this right and it’s all in the name of education. The business was granted a Scientific/Educational Permit.

“We want people to understand how the whiskey is made, where it comes from, what are the taste profiles of it,” said James Dumas, High West Food and Beverage Operations. “This just sort of compliments that whole experience and I think it’s a huge boost for tourism.”

The DABC was unanimous in their decision.

“This particular one I think sets the bar very high, I think to the standards that we want in the future, and I think that will be the way we go forward,” said DABC Chair John Nielsen.

It marks the first time a Utah brewery or distillery received the permit. High West will now have the opportunity to provide tasting at the end of their tours. The tours will be free but under state law patrons must pay for the taste testing.

“We really want four glasses or more in front of the person, we will be sure not to exceed the 2.5 ounces, but we feel it will be a huge benefit and big learning and educational experience with multiple vessels in front of the customer,” Dumas said.

The number one concern for the DABC was keeping the tasting out of sight from minors.

“I think we as a commission looked at the issues surrounding minors on the premise, minors in the area, and we felt High West went above and beyond addressing those issues,” said commissioner Jeff Wright.

The DABC acknowledged that this permit opens the door for breweries and distillers around the state to find a way to offer taste testing, which is why they made the application process very precise. Applicants need to know that the business must be focused on educating first, serving booze second.

“It was like writing essays for like college admittance, I felt like I had to get one of my kids to help me,” Dumas said.

“Every one of these that come forward is not going to be issued probably unless they meet these high standards,” Nielsen said.

High West said they expect to receive more than 200,000 visitors a year and a taste testing tour is their way of going that extra mile to make sure the experience is memorable.

“It’s sort of an old school word of mouth marketing, and you build these relationships with somebody, you teach somebody something, and they have it for a lifetime,” Dumas said.

Until this permit was issued only wineries had the right to offer taste testing involving multiple glasses of alcohol.

“That’s a policy decision that the legislature needs to deal with but in fairness it probably needs to be discussed in terms of allowing both to do the same thing,” Nielsen said.