Marketplace: Alpine Distilling brings spirit of Kentucky to Park City
Owner Rob Sergent’s family has made whiskey for generations
January 13, 2017
Where Rob Sergent comes from, whiskey is a part of life.
Stretching back into the 1800s, his family has distilled moonshine and whiskey in the shadows of the Appalachian mountains for generations. As a child, his grandmother would make him hot toddies when he was sick, a home remedy that would clear his congestion and allow him to sleep. He still recalls the lively spirit of family gatherings, and how the adults would each bring their preferred whiskey to sip as afternoons of conversation bled into evenings of revelry.
After all these years, and even though he now calls Park City home, Sergent is still an Eastern Kentucky boy at heart. He recently founded Alpine Distilling, at 7132 N. Silver Creek Road, where he hopes to build on the whiskey legacy of his forebearers and produce spirits that honor the culture that shaped him.
His children are the first in his heritage born outside of Kentucky, and Sergent said the distillery bridges the gap between his family's history and its future in Summit County.
"I started thinking, 'Well, what is my legacy, and what do I want (my children) to know?'" he said. "We are in Park City on purpose, and we love it here, and we don't want to live anywhere else in the world, but I want them to know that we come from Eastern Kentucky and to be proud of that Appalachian heritage and to be proud of what my family has done previously."
Sergent, who is the first in his family to make whiskey for profit, said he started the distillery after spending years in the corporate world, most recently with Johnson & Johnson. As his children grew older, the travel demands of his work became tiresome, and he began dreaming of building something of his own. He wanted to create something that would show his children what hard work looks like and the rewards that await those willing to put in the effort.
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But he also wanted to start a company that felt authentic to the Park City area, known for excellence in the ski, restaurant and hospitality industries. He knew that, with the area's whiskey culture defined by the award-winning High West Distillery, he had a lot to live up to. Sergent sought to carve out a niche of his own, distilling whiskeys that would stand up to High West's example but that would taste unlike anything else produced in Utah.
After becoming a certified distiller in Kentucky to learn the science behind making whiskey and months of experimenting, he came up with four distinct spirits: A bourbon featuring notes of apricot, primrose and cinnamon; a 40-proof liqueur with hints of black tea, ginger and raspberry; an 88-proof American single-malt whiskey; and an American barrel-proof whiskey.
Already, the 40-proof Preserve Liqueur and the StoneFruit Primrose Bourbon Whiskey have garnered praise, earning platinum and gold awards, respectively, at the 2016 SIP Awards, an international spirits tasting competition that features some of the biggest brands in the industry.
"When I started formulating this and coming up with a business plan, the only thing I held dear was it had to be excellent, and if not don't do it," said Sergent, who distills his product in Louisville before bottling it at his facility in Summit County. "But if it could be, and if it could raise the water mark of what High West has done and what restaurants like Handle have done, then go for it."
But as refined as the tastes of Sergent's products are, he remains optimistic customers will be able to trace the lineage of the spirits back to Eastern Kentucky, where his father and his father before him distilled whiskey using whatever grains they could procure from local farms. The whiskeys they drank were simple and strong, and Sergent marvels at the thought of them tasting his spirits. He believes they would recognize the taste of Appalachia, where whiskey flows like water and the culture is passed down through the generations.
"It's a really special opportunity to bring forward what, in its essence, distilling is," he said, "which is farmers taking local product and turning it into something drinkable and something they could share."
7132 N. Silver Creek Road
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