Salt Lake City Liquor Distilleries in 1857

Small batch distilleries are a hot trend across the US. Much like the craft-beer movement has introduced Americans to regionally made brews, micro-distillers that produce spirits such as unique-tasting whiskey, vodka and rum are bringing handcrafted sprits to American palates.
Sugar House Distillery is among one of only a handful of legal distilleries in Utah and while that number is low, compared to most states, it is sure to rise as the popularity of micro-distillers increases.

Utah has a very old distilling heritage dating back to the 1800's.

It’s unknown how many distilleries existed in Utah prior to 1862. The revenue collector’s record shows, between 1862, when the IRS went into effect, and 1869, the arrival of the railroad, thirty-seven distilleries operated in Utah, all owned by Mormons and with Brigham Young among them. 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. (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)


Prior to the revenue collector’s record, the first recorded whiskey event in Utah was the 1826 Mountain man rendezvous in Cove, Utah. The 1827 and 1828 rendezvous were both held at Bear Lake, Utah. (Mountain Man Rendezvous Sites by O. Ned Eddins)

1851 Valley Tan “The Exclusive Mormon Refresher”

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)

Utah’s History on Prohibition

Utah was one of the last states to pass legislation regulating the manufacture and consumption of alcohol in 1919. Not only was regulating drinking difficult, but, as Grand County officers discovered, stopping its illegal sale was also challenging. In 1923 Utah’s attorney general claimed that drinking in the larger cities was just as bad as before prohibition. Huge profits from the manufacture and sale of liquor made it impossible to stop. In Milford, Beaver County, officials alleged that the chief bootlegger was the city marshal’s sister. In Sanpete County one bootlegger loaded whiskey in the pack saddle of his trained horse and sent it home over twenty miles of mountainous road. He returned in his car, and when officers stopped him on suspicion of bootlegging they found no liquor in his vehicle. One Salt Lake City mother kept a still going in the basement of her house while her husband was serving an eighteen-month sentence for bootlegging. More shocking, raids on speakeasies in Utah often netted off-duty policemen among the criminal drinkers. Overall, from 1925 to 1932 federal agents in Utah seized over 400 distilleries, 25,000 gallons of spirits, 8,000 gallons of malt liquors, 13,000 gallons of wine, and 332,000 gallons of mash. Yet this was only a small percentage of what was actually being produced as practically every community and every neighborhood housed an illegal still.

In February of 1933 Utah was the thirty-sixth state and deciding state to approve the Twenty-first Amendment abolishing prohibition through repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment. Legal liquor began flowing again in Utah in 1935 when the first state liquor stores in Salt Lake City and Ogden opened their doors. Business was brisk at the new stores as Utahns eagerly purchased the once forbidden liquors; in the first fifteen days of operation receipts totaled $54,866. (W. Paul Reeve History Blazer, February 1995)

2013 Sugar House Distillery is awarded distillery and packaging license

December 18, 2013 – The number of distilleries in Utah nearly doubled on Tuesday when the state liquor commission granted licenses to two new Salt Lake County spirit-making operations. Sugar House Distillery, 2212 S. West Temple, and Beehive Distillery, 1745 S. Milestone (3000 West), are the fourth and fifth small-batch distilleries licensed by the state. High West Distillery has two licenses in Park City and Salt Lake City, while Utah’s Own in Ogden has the third. The liquor commission also approved a package agency license for Sugar House, which means consumers will eventually be able to buy the small-batch spirits at the distillery.

(By Kathy Stephenson – The Salt Lake Tribune)