CASPER, Wyo – By the end of 2021, Backwards Distillery will have won three national awards, served drinks in its original tasting room at Mills for the first time in over two years, and launched a batch of absinthe , the spirit that started the discussion that started the family business almost a decade ago.
300 bottles of Backwards absinthe are just waiting for labels, and the product is expected to launch in December.
“It’s important to our origin story,” Chad Pollock told Oil City News. Chad runs the business with his sister and city councilor Amber and his parents Bill and Kathy.
Long in love with the drink and its celebrated place in cultural history and literature, Chad began collecting bottles of green liquorice liquor at the age of 21.
“I tried to keep things very authentic and make sure that I produced very decent absinthe and that I bought the highest quality ingredients I could find.”
This particular batch has been idle since February, but Chad said a batch can take as little as three months to produce.
Part of the challenge of distilling absinthe is that the herbs are left in the still during the process, and it’s easy to damage and burn them. It also has 50 times the botanical mass of gin, which means it’s more unstable and prone to oxidation.
It does not cause hallucinations. Chad said this reputation was the result of a “smear campaign” waged by the wine industry in the hope of undermining the popularity of alcohol. The deleterious effects noted in the annals of cultural history are likely due to sheer excess – the Backwards batch contains 67% alcohol (134 proof).
The “holy trinity of herbs” of the spirit is green anise, fennel and grand wormwood. As with most of Backwards’ creations, Chad looked to local sources for some of the ingredients.
The quality of green anise is what produces the “ladle,” or milky color that occurs when water is poured over wormwood.
Absinthe was cultivated from Buffalo, which took four or five generations to perfect. For authenticity, the fennel seeds used in the distillation came from Val-de-Travers on the border of France and Switzerland.
The fennel leaves used to provide the green coloring were cultivated by the Wyoming Food for Thought Project.
Chad said people will soon be able to get the full absinthe experience at Backwards, including dispensing fountains and the traditional serving with spoons and sugar cubes, if that’s their preference.
The historical approach and emphasis on ingredients has always been part of the Backwards experience, said Amber Pollock.
“We try to base our approach on traditional techniques that are rooted in a lot of history,” Amber said. “Trying to emphasize that story alongside the product in a certain context has always been a priority. “
This focus on quality and customer experience was highlighted by at least three major publications this year.
Backwards won the “Forward Distiller Award” from the editors of Sunset magazine for its Travel Awards 2021, recognizing the family’s pivot in making hand sanitizer at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as their use of locally sourced ingredients.
The distillery is also on TripSavvy’s Four annual Editors’ Choice award winners, which selected less than 2% of over 60,000 companies around the world for listing.
Contorsionist Gin also reached # 4 of USA Today’s Top Ten Craft Gin Distilleries in 2021 – it took # 6 in 2017.
“It’s always a great validation and affirmation that we are meeting the kind of standard we want to deliver,” Amber said of pricing.
Beyond absinthe, 2021 was a year of great return for the company in other respects. The location of the distillery in Mills was unable to serve drinks after the downtown tasting room opened in early 2019. Changes to the Wyoming legislature this year have allowed distillers to have two satellite tasting rooms, and the town of Mills approved the original location’s license this summer, allowing it to host tastings and events.
Since then, the Mills site has hosted an evening screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and a performance for Wyoming magician Byron Gray. Amber said yoga classes could return, along with more paid events and cocktails, as well as educational “deep dives” in all aspects of the process.
“It really has a different vibe and atmosphere than our new tasting room,” Amber said. “Overall it’s really fun to be back in this space, because I still love it so much, and so many guests too.”
Amber said she added a few aesthetic touches like extra lighting and the brand’s signature circus stripes.
Amber said the Backwards running experience connected her to the Caper community who are eager to try new things.
“I learned a lot about the interdependence of the community,” she added, “and how individual businesses or entities rely on a healthy and prosperous community as a whole to be able to grow and develop. support their efforts, ”Amber said.
Running a business as a family is a “very dynamic situation” every day, Amber said, but everyone has found their specialty. Amber’s is the interaction with the public and also creates signature cocktails.
“No one would really want to take my place there, I don’t think so,” Amber said. “Well, they might want… but I don’t think they could. “