Boot Hill Distillery: From the cemetery of Wild West gunslingers, a new spirit is rising
The story begins in 1872.
A man by the name of George Hoover is told he can no longer sell his whiskey in Fort Dodge, Kansas — a settlement setup to protect wagon travelers navigating the American West. Colonel Richard Dodge thought too much whiskey was being consumed by his soldiers so he outlawed it and banished sales within five miles.
So, Hoover went five miles to the edge of Fort Dodge’s reservation by counting the rotations of his wagon wheel. There, he set up shop and so Dodge City, Kansas was born from a barrel.
Cowboys pushing longhorns up from Texas would make it to Dodge City and be welcomed with whiskey by the ladle. Saloons flourished and when some of the gunslinging cowboys would get too rowdy, they’d end up dead. Boot Hill looking over the town was the spot they would get buried. Dodge City soon got a reputation for being a violent and dangerous outpost.
“If you met your unfortunate demise in the 1870s and nobody knew who you were, this was the location of the burial ground,” Boot Hill Distillery’s Lee Griffith told us. “They were buried in shallow graves where the boots would potentially stick out of the ground. That’s where the name Boot Hill Cemetery came from.”
During an effort to clean up the town’s reputation, the bodies were interred and a school house was built on the hill. Once that became derelict, the city later built a municipal building on the site.
When that too fell into disrepair, some local farmers came to the rescue.
“The idea for a distillery came up. We thought we could turn some of our grain into whiskey,” fifth generation farmer and Boot Hill Founder and CEO Hayes Kelman told us. “If we don’t grow the product, we won’t make spirit out of it. We get the corn planted in the ground, taking care of it throughout the year, harvesting it and then finally bringing it up here and turning it into whiskey.”
And so Kansas’ first soil-to-sip craft bourbon was released in 2016. Since then, Boot Hill Distillery has racked up numerous awards including Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
“This is whiskey made on top of the infamous Boot Hill Cemetery, in the world famous Dodge City with grain gown ourselves. Is there any story more American than that?”
After a tour of their hill and their still (housed within the old column where the fireman’s pole used to be located), it was time for us to get the hell out of Dodge (but not without some whiskey).
What’s in the box
Boot Hill Bourbon
Boot Hill Bourbon is pot-distilled in 500 gallon batches. Hot, dry summers, bitter cold winters, and the obstinate Kansas wind all do the rest. What emerged from the barrel after its extended sleep exceeded our expectations with notes of caramel, fruit, and spice. Their Bourbon is proofed to a pleasantly hot 90 (45% ABV) proof for the ideal balance of flavor and heat.
2020: Gold Medal - San Francisco World Spirits Competition
2019: Silver Medal - Heartland Spirits Fest
Boot Hill Wheated Whiskey
As part of their experimental collection, Boot Hill Wheated Whiskey starts life as a 100% hard red winter wheat mash, it’s then distilled to 160 proof and aged in their charred American White Oak barrels. The final product is one of the most delicate yet bold whiskies they’ve produced to date.
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