It’s no longer unexpected to discover distilleries tucked into the world’s special little towns. But some spirit manufacturing facilities stand alone, elevating not just their location, but the process. Carbondale, in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, near Aspen, has long been an artists’ colony and mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. Its eccentric, refurbished main street reflects that creative vibe.
But, by far, its jewel in the crown is Connie Baker’s innovative Marble Distilling Co. & The Distillery Inn. The sustainable, environmentally forward spirit factory sets an industry standard, but takes hospitality to another level with its onsite, five-room inn—so far as we know, the only hotel in the world set within a working distillery. We sat down with Connie Baker, CEO and Head Distiller, to hear about the distillery in her own words.
Marble Distilling Company mirrors the artsy feeling of Carbondale, with its design savvy hotel, artisan spirits, and creative spirit. Can you tell us your story and what inspired you to create it?
I went to distilling school in Spokane, WA, thinking I was taking on a new hobby, but fell in love the minute I walked through the door of that distillery. That started a five-year process of studying, recipe development, planning, and design to build something that honors true artisans from the space to the spirits. Carbondale is such a neat, funky town, with so many incredible artists to draw inspiration from, so to be able to contribute to that is an honor. I wanted to create a space that wasn’t just about “drinking” great spirits, but brought people together while being out and about. Marble is cool and hip, but really comfortable and welcoming. The hotel came about because Carbondale deserved to have the chicest hotel right on Main Street!
You are proud to be a prototype for sustainable spirit making. Tell us about that.
I LOVE vodka but will not destroy the planet to make it Water is our most precious resource, especially here in Colorado, and typical distilling practices utilize extreme amounts of water to make alcohol. From the beginning of the design process, we knew we were going to do things differently. We assembled a team of “blue sky” engineers to create the first of its kind Water & Energy Thermal System (WETS), which saves more than 4 million gallons of water annually. It harvests 1.8 billion BTUs of energy from the distillation process—all of it reused here at the distillery and Inn.
A typical bottle of vodka takes more than 100 bottles of water to create, but Marble Vodka takes only what’s in the one bottle. We like to say we are saving the planet one bottle at a time. We share our information, and are always willing to help any other distilleries that want to conserve, as we all need to do our part. We recycle all our stillage back to the ranch where grains are grown to feed cattle. All other ingredients are composted, so we are zero waste in production—it’s not really that hard!
I love that your spirits are filtered through local marble and utilize fresh glacial water. Tell us what is unique about them.
We start with using 100% Colorado grown, high elevation grains, some grown locally here in Carbondale. Water is so important, and we are blessed to have incredible water from the Crystal River headwaters, a pristine source. The vodka is always filtered through local Yule Marble, which is a metamorphosed limestone, so it is perfect for a “light” filtration that does not strip the flavor of our grains yet adds a bit of minerality to our vodka.
What is your favorite spirit?
I have a favorite tasting spirit and a favorite innovative spirit. Marble Vodka is my favorite tasting spirit. I LOVE that you can actually taste the malted barley in it—a smooth, creamy taste. The grain base gives it a luxurious mouth feel and the finish has that hint of minerality. I typically drink it straight. Many people believe vodka should be tasteless; that is not only untrue but WRONG, so wrong. A great vodka should be tasteFULL. I believe that is the beauty of true craft.
My favorite innovative spirit is our Hoovers Revenge Fightin’ Whiskey, made from Triticale. Triticale is a wheat/rye hybrid grain that came to America, bred in Scotland in the early 19th century. It’s mostly used in cereal production, but it makes an incredible whiskey. Not only does the grain grow with low water and does not strip the soil (it is actually used often as a cover crop), the grain holds up fantastically in whiskey. We keep our proof at 101 for this whiskey, as the grain can hold its own even at high proof and showcases the flavor of the grains in each sip.
A few words about the inn?
The Distillery Inn is a fantastic surprise when you open the door to your suite—and that is exactly the idea! You’ve just arrived in historic, cute downtown Carbondale, you step into your room and find yourself in modern mountain urban luxury with every special detail covered. From the organic Colorado bath amenities to your oversized spa shower to your bed outfitted in Italian linens (which you can lie on in your fluffy robe, drinking your martini in front of your fire). A few steps away is the Marble Bar with a delicious menu of craft cocktails to further delight. When you are staying at the Inn, all of the creature comforts are covered and you are helping to save the planet as all of the heating, cooling, and hot water is coming from reused energy. How fun is that?
Any adjustments for the current situation?
For those who are wanting to “escape” these unusual times, you can have contactless hospitality with our key code entry; there’s no check-in, and you can know you are completely safe as we have installed UV lights in our ducts to purify air and kill viruses.
You have a tasting room in Aspen. Will it be open this winter for ski season?
We are planning for that! These days, I use the “F” word a lot—Flexible. Once we receive word from the Governor’s office that “bars” can reopen (we don’t offer food in our Aspen tasting room), we have a plan in place to safely open Aspen, so we can offer a spot to enjoy local craft spirits in a small, intimate environment. As things change, we change and adapt to work with what we have – and, we have plenty of hand sanitizer, made locally
What else would you like for us to know?
It’s a great time to be a hero – each of us can be one by supporting local businesses during these trying times. If you can’t come visit Marble, visit your local distillery, brewery, Mom & Pop shop, whatever you can do to help your community. When things change, and you get to Marble, take a tour to see what we are doing to support our local ranchers, growers, coffee roaster, to keep it local and “Drink Sustainably”!