The flow of life was what brought P.T. Woods to Salida. He could not resist the urge to raft the wild waters of the Arkansas River crossing the valley, under the shadow of Monarch Ridge.
But water is not the only liquid raising Salida’s adventurous spirits nowadays. Woods’ other passion is whiskey.
Woods said he would always have whiskey with friends at the end of a rafting trip when they would sit down to share and talk. On the banks of the Colorado River, during a Grand Canyon trip, he thought of how great it would be to drink his own bourbon. That is how the idea of Woods’ High Mountain Distillery was born.
Woods has been in Salida since the late ’80s.
“I don’t know how long that is. A few weeks?” he said.
He spoke joyfully about his life in Colorado and his work as a master distiller, an adventure he started almost five years ago.
He grew up in Boulder, went to college in Durango and built a family in Salida.
“My parents were a little bit of hippies though,” Woods said.
Growing up, his family traveled a lot. That is why he said his nickname PT, stands for Passing Through Woods.
His distilling craft was pretty much self-taught.
“It was something I wanted to do, so I went out and figured out how to do it,” Woods said. This Coloradan takes a lot of care about
his commitment to local businesses and on delivering sustainable and organic products. He collaborates with other business owners in Salida, where many have their own ventures but provide each other with resources or materials.
Woods’ distillery dispenses different kinds of craft liquors in their tasting room. To see the magic of these alchemist brews being produced, do not go far. Patrons just need to look at the back of the bar. There they will see the whole distillery from the comfort of their tables.
Back there, Woods and his team produce their bottles of Tenderfoot Whiskey and Alpine Rye Whiskey. They have three varieties of gin spiced up with local ingredients, and herbs. They also offer exotic elderflower liqueur. Woods and his team are also developing a new blue gin.
“We use a secret botanical,” he said. The mysterious flower gives the liquor a completely natural cobalt blue hue.
With Pearl, the distillery dog by his side, Woods pointed to a big piece of copper and other metals he calls Frankenstill.
“You probably cannot tell but I made that still myself,” Woods said.
Inside Frankenstill’s copper belly, Woods pours a beer they already made before on a dairy tank. The vapors of what started as a mix of water, grains and yeasts, are boiled, cooled and condensed.
Next he introduced Ashley, a late 1800s German still he managed to put to work. Next he extracts the distill. Finally, the alcohol rests in oak barrels for one and a half to three years until they are ready to bottle.
Woods said about 25 percent of his venue’s visitors are local. The rest are visitors coming from other places in Colorado, other states and he also gets people from across the globe.
“We are all over the place,” Woods said about his expanding distribution. “We are all over Colorado. A little bit on the east coast, Italy.”
Patrons are greeted by an open space and can choose to sit at the bar, a table or a cozy couple of sofas. Walls are a mix of wood and brick and it feels like everything is worn out but has been given a second life.