Utah's Distilling History

1851 - Valley Tan “The Exclusive Mormon Refresher”

When the first settlers arrived in Utah, distilling was a way of life because alcohol was a primary medicine as well as a way to turn food that would have spoiled into something of great value. Mark Twain wrote this about the whiskey the early pioneers made: “the exclusive Mormon refresher; valley tan is a kind of whisky, or first cousin to it; is of Mormon invention and manufactured only in Utah. Tradition says it is made of [imported] fire and brimstone. If I remember rightly, no public drinking saloons were allowed in the kingdom by Brigham Young, and no private drinking permitted among the faithful, except they confined themselves to Valley Tan.”(from “Roughing It”, Mark Twain, 1871)

1826 - Mountain Man Rendezvous – The first recorded whiskey-fest out west

From 1825 to 1840, the “rendezvous” was the annual summer gathering of mountain men to exchange pelts for supplies. Alcohol was not one of the “supplies” at the first rendezvous in Wyoming, which lasted a day. This oversight was corrected with a generous supply of whiskey at the second rendezvous in Utah’s Cache Valley, creating a month long shindig that was so popular the mountain men repeated it as an annual event.

1857 - Whiskey Street in Salt Lake City

Main Street, south of 2nd South, was familiarly known as Whiskey Street after 1857. “In 1857 still long before the advent of the gentile and when Brigham Young together with his minions were in absolute control of everything in Utah the saloon was so conspicuous in Salt Lake City that Brigham Young designated its principal thoroughfare as Whiskey Street and an apostle admitted the existence of a few drunkards.” (from “The American Historical Magazine”, Volume 3, January – November 1908, Publishing Society of New York, Americana Society).

1870 - Last Known Legal Distillery in Utah

How many distilleries existed in Utah, prior to 1862, cannot be ascertained, though we know there was no scarcity. The revenue collector’s record shows, that between 1862, when the internal revenue system went into effect, and December, 1869, the advent of the railroad and the gentile, there were started in Utah, thirty-seven distilleries, all owned by Mormons and Brigham Young among them. No distillery has been operated in Utah, since 1870. (From “Mormonism and Intoxicants” Theodore Schroeder, Page 421. The American Historical Magazine, Volume 3, January 1908 – November 1908, By Publishing Society of New York, Americana Society)

1884 - Park City Incorporated

Founded by prospectors in the late 1860’s, Park City became one of the richest silver mining towns in the West and the best watering hole in Utah.

1933 - Utah Helps End Prohibition

Utah becomes the critical 36th state to vote against the 18th amendment and end Prohibition. The Utah delegation even said, “No other state shall take away this glory from Utah” (From “Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition” John Kobler, Da Capo Press, New York, 1993, p. 353.

2006 - High West Becomes Utah’s First Legal Distillery since 1870