The Grand Teton Vodka distillery north of downtown Driggs is poised to double in size, even as it prepares to introduce several new products to the market, including whiskey.
The company has sold 2,000 cases of its product during its first year, said Lea Beckett who runs the distillery with her husband Bill, and is adding whiskey to its offerings. The unaged white whiskey, dubbed Teton Moonshine, will be sold in a 750 ml jug. It will come in regular, Huckleberry and Apple Pie Spice, and will sell for about $19.95 a bottle.
The city of Driggs’ Design Review Advisory Committee and Planning and Zoning met Aug. 14 and approved the design to GTV’s growth with a few changes, said Lea Beckett, who runs the potato vodka distillery with husband Bill.
“We are doubling the size of the distillery,” said Lea. “We are now 2,400 square feet and will be 5,000 square feet when done.”
The expansion will house the automated bottling equipment, pallet racks for storage of bottles, raw materials and supplies, she said.
The new addition will include 8 kW of solar panels to help offset electric costs.
GTV has submitted an application for a building permit with Teton County and is seeking bids for the construction. They hope to get started in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, Bill Beckett was on a foreign trade mission to China Sept. 1-5 along with about 10 other businesses. While there, the group will visit Shanghai and Hangzhou, China.
The mission, Lea Beckett said, is sponsored by Western USA Trade Association, which is partially funded by the US Agriculture Department, Idaho and other states’ agriculture departments.
Idaho agricultural products will be promoted during the visit, and Bill “will meet with distributors and retailers to introduce our brand and possibly get orders in China,” she said.
The firm is also a big user of local Idaho potatoes for its vodka.
“We contracted for 50,000 pounds of potato flakes this year and will probably exceed that, Lea said. “That is equivalent to about 250,000 pounds of raw potatoes used. We expect to triple our production next year, and will use well over 500,000 pounds of raw potatoes.”
Beckett said the plant produces no waste products. Waste produced from its processes goes to local ranchers and a pig farmer, “who mix it with their animal feed to add liquid nutrition to their feed,” Lea said.
The distillery will offer its first flavored vodka, Russian style cherry infused vodka, in October.
“We have 700 pounds of cherries coming from Oregon in late August and the Cherry Vodka will be ready in mid October,” said Beckett. It will sell for $14.95 for a 375 ml bottle.
“When we begin whiskey production next year, we will also be buying barley, hopefully from local sources,” Lea said.
Beckett said the company purchased about 50 barrels of partially aged bourbon.
“We will store it, let it continue aging and it will be ready for bottling next spring,” she said.
By then, they’ll begin laying down barrels of single-malt whiskey — they can’t call it Scotch since it’s not made in Scotland — they will make on site. It will be known as Teton Highland Single Malt Whiskey.
With a year under its belt last month, the distillery did 2,000 cases and is now shipping to 10 states. Besides Idaho, Grand Teton Potato Vodka is now sold in Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, Washington, California, Arkansas, Connecticut, North Dakota and Arizona. “We have completed the paperwork and will soon be shipping to Utah, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia,” Beckett said.
The Idaho State Liquor Division recently allowed GTV to become a small state liquor store, selling only its own products, she said. “We are averaging about 3 to 10 cases a week in sales from the store, almost exclusively to tourists who stop for a tour,” said Beckett.
In its first year, the potato vodka has won the following awards:
• A Gold Medal and a Best Buy category from Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago in 2012, with 94 points
• Double Gold Medal — 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition
• Best Buy Category, 92 points — Wine Enthusiast Magazine. The firm is scheduled to be featured in the magazine’s October edition
• Double Gold Medal — thefiftybest.com • for domestic vodkas, July 2013
• 95 Smart Points — vodka.findthebest.com • (July, 2013)
• No. 1 ranked potato vodka in the world according to Proof66. com
• No. 4 ranked vodka in the world according to Proof66.com
GTV has four full time employees, two part-time employees and five commissioned sales people in Idaho, Beckett said