SPEARFISH — Among the rise of craft breweries in Spearfish, a new craft distillery has opened its doors in the Black Hills.
Spearfish native Matt Lutz, 35 started working on his distilling dream shop shortly after moving back to the Black Hills from Los Angeles where he worked in it security.
“I had a really great job out in Los Angeles It was always just a constant battle” Lutz said. “I felt like I was stuck.”
Lutz explained that the inspiration to open his business came while he and a friend were visiting a local craft distillery.
“This guy was selling out the door,” he said. “I just don’t like modern vodka. So I started kinda looking into it and I was like, ‘oh, I want to do that, I want to make some vodka’. And with hard alcohol you have to make a business, so I thought, ‘well, now or never with all the laws changing.’”
Lutz explained that in the earliest days of vodka distilling, the local grains used in the process played a very important role in preserving the essence of the region it came from.
“It was important for them,” he said. “They had a couple grains they really liked to use. So it was important for them to have a little bit of flavor.”
Modern vodka is distilled in such a way as to filter out as much of the natural flavor as possible in order to create a “neutral” alcohol, which can then be paired with bitters to make flavored vodka and cocktails.
“They (modern vodka makers) filter it to get rid of the flavor content,” Lutz said. “When they say they’ve filtered it seven times, they filtered it because there’s still a lot of flavor, (which is not wanted.)”
Lutz wants his vodka to retain the flavors that come from using locally sourced South Dakota resources.
“I love Spearfish water,” he said. “I’ve drank a lot of water, a lot of different places and I like our sweet water here. And I want that water to be in my vodka. That’s a flavor.”
Lutz purchases all his raw grain from local farms in South Dakota; however, malted grains are also required to distill spirits. With a lack of malting houses in the state, he had to find a way to get the ingredients he needed while still maintaining the locally sourced flavor he wanted for his product.
“I found a malting house in Minnesota,” he said. “Not all of their grain comes from South Dakota, but a good chunk of their grain comes from South Dakota. That’s as 100 percent locally sourced as I can get.”
Now that Lutz has found a way to keep his “old world” vodka flavored with the tastes of South Dakota, he’s also working on a modern “neutral” vodka so he can start creating flavored varieties to sell. He also hopes to expand into distilling whiskey in the future.
“I want to get into whiskeys eventually,” he said. “This is one of the best areas to have a whiskey distillery.”
Lutz explained that areas with fluctuating weather patterns help to infuse whiskey with the natural flavors of the wooden barrels in which it’s stored. When the weather is cold, the wood barrels contract and draw the alcohol into it, and as the weather warms the wood expands and releases the alcohol now infused with subtle flavors.
“That’s what whiskey’s really about, those wood notes,” he said. “If I want to stay just as a vodka guy, going someplace else would be fine. But if I want to make whiskey, I want to be in the Black Hills because we have crazy weather, and that makes good whiskey!”
For more information on Bucket Shop Distillery or to schedule a tour with Lutz, call 717-2473 or email info@BucketShopDistillery.com.
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