Boot Hill Distillery celebrates its grand opening 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Director of marketing Mark Vierthaler tied the new craft distillery to the beginning of Dodge City when George M Hoover began selling whiskey out of a barrel 5 miles from Fort Dodge.
"Born from a barrel, forged in the dust," he said, "we're built on the original Boot Hill Cemetery."
In 1878 the bodies were moved to the municipal cemetery, and Dodge City's first multi-room schoolhouse was built on the site. The school served the students of Dodge City until 1927. As Dodge City's population grew the building was razed and planning began for what would become the municipal building.
When the building opened in 1929, it housed city hall, the municipal courtroom, judge's chambers, city jail, fire department and police department until city services moved in the 1960s.
In the distillery room, aka the old fire station, grain is mashed, fermented, distilled and proofed.
"We grow all the grain," Vierthaler said. "We mill it on site. We're set up for 500 gallon batches. When it comes off the still, the alcohol is between 150 to 190 proof. We don't sell it at that. We add reverse osmosis water to get it down to 80 to 90 proof, which does not add any flavors."
Every piece of the distillery was custom built for Boot Hill Distillery to fit into the building's low ceilings.
From the proofing dock, the whiskey or vodka flows into the bottling room, aka the police station.
For bourbon, the alcohol goes into special casks to age two years.
"It's very time consuming to fill, cork, label and seal, so we're going to offer bottling parties," he said. "People can sign up for an evening. We'll feed them and then they help us bottle and label. We'll celebrate with cocktails at the end and maybe give a bottle to take home. We'll have sign up sheets at the grand opening. It takes four or five people, 3 or 4 hours to bottle a batch, roughly 300 to 400 bottles."
During the grand opening two versions of white whiskey and two versions of vodka will be offered for sampling.
"They'll have a tasting card to fill out and tell us what they prefer," he said. "We want to give people a voice in the spirits as well. In the cask club we give people the opportunity to purchase a barrel. You can visit anytime, you can age it as long as you like and when you feel it's best, we'll bottle it. You take the spirit and barrel. For $20,000 we'll create a unique whiskey recipe specifically for you and we can use your grain."
He said for the first year bottles will only be sold in the tasting room, aka the city clerk's office. Right now white whiskey and vodka are available. He said the gin recipe is still being worked out.
"We're real proud of the bar," he said. "It was built in 1902 and used to be in Bill's Tavern in the 1950s. One of our goals is to have a craft cocktail bar. If I've got a new spirit, I want to know how to mix it. We can make them a cocktail with it then give them a recipe card to go with the bottle."
In order for the distillery to sell by the drink, Ford County would have to approve such a measure in the upcoming November election.
Although the upstairs old city jail, courtroom and judge's chambers are unfinished, he said plans are underway to turn them into board rooms and food prep stations.
In addition to the free tastings on Saturday, pizza by the slice will be offered at 3 p.m. and the ribbon cutting will take place at 5 p.m. Live music will also be provided.