liquid assets

Vodka via Marble Distilling Company

By Marci Krivonen / Photography By Greg Didier | June 15, 2015
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Old-Work approach to Whiskey Fermentation
The 500-gallon stripping still and the open cypress fermenting tanks—an Old-World approach to whiskey fermentation—are made by Confederate Stills of Alabama.

Distillery Opens on Main in Carbondale

The Marble Distilling Company in downtown Carbondale is entering the food and drink scene at just the right time. The town has welcomed two breweries as its farm-to-table restaurant scene has grown considerably in the last several years. “Marble,” as its owners call it, promises to add something entirely new: homemade vodka and family recipe liqueurs.

The two-story distillery in a brand new building is hard to miss on Main Street. It has a gray concrete exterior with giant floor-to-ceiling windows framing an 18-foot copper still. A quick peek inside reveals a bar carved from marble.

“The way I consider it is that we’re three businesses under one roof,” says Dorian DiPangrazio, a co-owner of Marble.

It’s true Marble will be offering more than craft vodka. The 7,000-square-foot structure includes five hotel rooms and a tasting room open to the public. Whiskey lovers can also join the Barrel Club Room, where members buy a barrel of whiskey and sample it as it ages.

“It’s a two-year program, where members can taste their whiskey over that time period,” says DiPangrazio.

Marble’s hotel and tasting room opened to the public this spring. Three spirits are available: Crystal River Vodka 80, Ginger Cello liqueur and a coffee liqueur called Moonlight Espresso.

A Family Affair

Marble Distilling Company’s ownership team is comprised of Dorian DiPangrazio; her husband, Rob; sister-in-law Connie Baker; and Connie’s husband, Carey Shanks.

“I personally have always wanted to have a family business, so it’s been really exciting for me,” says DiPangrazio. “I love that I can be with my brother, his wife and my husband and have this really unique idea come to fruition. It’s been really fun.”

The idea for the business didn’t unfold overnight. Rob and Connie went to distilling school in Spokane, Washington, and then mulled over the idea for years.

“Connie kept saying, ‘Let’s do this. Let’s do this,’ and it sort of came about from there,” says DiPangrazio.

She and Rob moved their family of six from North Carolina to Carbondale to begin work on the business.

Part of the draw to Carbondale was the site that the distilling company sits on. Connie owns the land, which is prime real estate on the edge of downtown, near the Rio Grande Trail. Baker was considering it as a possible location for a marketing business before discussions started around a distillery. She was inspired by the distillery where she had trained in Spokane.

“They had a great thing going but in an unusual location and, Rob and I thought it would be great if we could have this on a main street in a town,” says Baker “And, of course, Carbondale’s the perfect location since locals and tourists come here.”

It helps that the entire family likes drinking spirits. Rob says whiskey is his favorite. Dorian’s a “vodka girl.” Connie’s palate isn’t picky: She likes it all. And Carey, he prefers a Moscow Mule with “real” ginger flavor and locally distilled vodka.

Local Connection

Part of Marble’s focus is to use ingredients in their spirits from as close to home as possible. The vodka will be made from wheat and malted barley sourced in Colorado. The coffee for the Moonlight Espresso liqueur comes from local roaster Bonfire. And, the flavors for cocktails served in the tasting room will come from Palisade peaches and Paonia cherries.

“We really want to focus on getting ingredients on the Western Slope and keep it more regional to create that feeling that it’s made here,” says Baker.

The equipment inside the distillery is American-made. The two large fermenters were made in Ridgway, Colorado, by Bennett Forgeworks.

The appetizers served at the distillery also include local ingredients. Lacy Hughes, who owns the Carbondale restaurant Silo, is in charge of providing food in the tasting room.

“The small plates will include things like charcuterie boards, cheese boards and roasted nuts,” says Hughes. “Just simple, easy snacks to accompany the cocktails.”

The menu will change depending on the season and the availability of local ingredients. Hughes gets her products from local producers like Avalanche Cheese Company and Rock Bottom Ranch. Her eggs come from a woman who raises chickens in her backyard in Carbondale.

“In general, a better product is created through these small local farms than through big feedlots and large corporate producers,” says Hughes. “It comes through in the food. It’s worth it to spend more money, keep it in the Valley and get a nicer product.”

A Competitive Market?

Marble Distilling Company joins a growing spirits industry in the Roaring Fork Valley. Just last year two new breweries opened in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. And the Woody Creek Distillery is up the road in Basalt. Still, the Marble team says their business won’t compete with existing establishments. They think the addition of a distillery will instead be a boon for the entire tourism industry. Baker says they want to complement the restaurant scene, not compete with it.

“We envision that our hotel guests and locals will come in and enjoy a cocktail while they’re waiting for a table at a nearby restaurant or come in after dinner for a nightcap.”

Restaurateur Mark Fischer operates Phat Thai and Town in Carbondale. He was one of the first on the fine dining scene when he opened SIX89 in 1998. Carbondale has seen new energy move in since then, he says, and the distillery will fit nicely into the local culture.

“I think the more like-minded businesses that open up on Main Street, the more traffic it will drive to Carbondale. I’m not worried about some sort of cannibalizing effect. I’ll send them flowers when they open.”

Chase Engel, owner of the Roaring Fork Beer Company, agrees the addition of a distillery in Carbondale will only benefit the restaurants and breweries already operating.

“I think it’s great. I don’t think it’s going to hurt us at all. I think, if anything, it might help us. It’s just another reason to come to Carbondale.”

Marble Distilling Company in Carbondale
Bedroom Suite at the Distillery Inn
Photo 1: The new kid on the block is now open in the heart of Carbondale.
Photo 2: Guests will enjoy contemporary mountain luxury in one of five one-bedroom suites at the Distillery Inn.

Not a Drop Wasted

The Marble Distilling Company isn’t just serving up spirits— it’s setting an example for energy efficiency. A specialized water reclamation system recycles 100 percent of the water used in the distillation process. It is then reused in the distilling process, or to heat or cool the building as needed.

Two 5,000-gallon tanks collect the water. “All of the processed water passes through heat exchangers and heat pumps and is collected in the hot tank and then recycled to a cold tank,” says Connie Baker, co-owner. “It’s a closed system, so we’re never putting any water down the drain.”

The system will result in significant energy and water savings. Baker says the $750,000 price tag is steep but the system should pay for itself in 10 years. The distillery received some help purchasing the system with a Randy Udall Energy Pioneer Grant from the Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE).

Baker believes the distillery sets a good example for others. “It’s showing that small businesses can help set a tone for how environmentally sound you can be when opening a business.”

Like Palisade, he thinks the Roaring Fork Valley could become a beverage destination, where people travel from afar to drink.

“Beer or drink tourism is a big thing. A good example is Casey Brewing and Blending in Glenwood Springs. People drive once a month from all over for his beer releases. Most of those people end up coming to Carbondale afterward.”

The laid back culture and $5 beers also distinguish Roaring Fork Beer Company from the more upscale distillery, he says. The cocktails at Marble will be priced between $6 and $12.

Marble Crystal River
Courtesy of The Proof Agency

Historical Flare

The small hamlet of Marble is a 27-mile drive from Carbondale, but the Marble Distilling Company is incorporating much of its history. Along with the bar carved from local marble, marble plates will be used to serve appetizers and the vodka will be filtered through crushed jewel marble from the Yule Quarry.

The quarry sits at an elevation of 9,500 feet and is cut into a steep mountainside above the town. The clean white marble was first discovered in the 1870s, but major development didn’t start until the early part of the 20th century, according to the Marble Tourism Association. At one time, the town had the largest marble fabricating mill of its kind in the world. The quarry is still in production today, though the town’s population has shrunk considerably.

Connie Baker says the story of Marble has largely been forgotten. She’d like to revive it at the distillery.

“Marble was a thriving community of 3,000 people at one point, now there’s 100 who live there. There’s a lot of history that’s just up the road that a lot of locals don’t even know about. We’d like to bring a little of that down to Carbondale.”

Even the liqueur recipes reflect the area’s history. Many of the quarry workers were Italian, which is how the Ginger Cello liqueur got its name. Baker says Moonlight Espresso is a family recipe.

“We joke on our label that if it was good enough to keep the quarry men working through the wee hours, then we can enjoy it too and it keeps us going!”

Even the outdoor fireplace at the distillery is modeled after the old mill site walls that still stand today at the national historic site in Marble.

With the promise of a history lesson, a homemade cocktail and a warm bed, the Marble Distilling Company is banking on attracting a broad base of visitors, especially those close to home.

“We’re seeing great interest from people who want to stay in Carbondale,” says Baker. “Maybe they live up in Missouri Heights and want to come to Carbondale and see a show and go out to dinner and they don’t want to drive home. So, I think we’ll have locals and tourists.”


Marble Distilling Co.
150 Main St., Carbondale

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