Story and photos by Nick Perkins
The message was clear; the vision, simple. She wanted it to be “like you were in the forest, with evergreen trees all around you. You are chewing on a branch; a sappy pine branch and you cannot smell or taste anything besides that.”
That was how Amber Pollock of Backwards Distilling Company described their newest spirit, Strongman Gin. That was the gin that they took to the American Craft Spirits Association Conference.
It was the gin that won them a gold medal.
The ACSA is a registered non-profit association who, according to their website, exists “to elevate and advocate for the community of craft spirits producers.” In 2017, their annual conference was held in Nashville, Tenn., and Backwards Distilling Company, of Casper Wyoming, was among a select few distilleries to take part in both the conference and the competition.
Backwards entered their Strongman Gin into the competition; one that would be judged by a select group of peers based on smell, taste and a number of other factors. Competition was fierce; this truly was a showcase of the best of the barrel. Pollock stated that only 20 gold medals were given across a broad range of categories, out of more than 800 entries. Still, the heart, the soul and, most importantly, the quality of Backwards’s gin was strong and they were able to bring home the gold.
“The competition really meant something to us,” Pollock said. “It was the first competition that Strongman has been entered in at all, so we were really, really excited to come out of the gates with that type of win.”
While exciting, the win shouldn’t have come as that much of a shock— Backwards Distilling has been creating and curating top-of-the-line products since they first came to Casper in 2014. Whether it was their vodka, rum or gin, Backwards has been racking up wins in various competitions across America. What really matters to them, though, is the quality of products they’re putting out, and the reputation that they are developing among their customers.
It is that commitment to quality that really distinguishes themselves from the competitors, Pollock said.
“One line in the sand that we drew very early on, and have not even considered deviating from is [the fact] that everything we make is made from scratch,” she said. “We didn’t outsource at any point in the production because it was important to us that we have control over every aspect of the product, so that we can be sure of quality and also, that’s part of our story. We wanted to be authentic.”
Authenticity is a word that is not normally thought of when describing alcohol. This is because most consumers rarely delve into all of the aspects that go into actually creating quality spirits. That is why conferences, such as those put on by the ACSA, and the accolades that come from them mean so much to distilleries. These conferences are a chance to compare, contrast and to learn from each other. For Pollock, this conference was a chance to look at the past and to focus on the future.
“It really kind of solidified my views about where we need to go, next steps, with our company,” she stated. “Our first 2 years, it was a lot of learning as we went, a lot of trying to navigate the basic elements of our industry and I think [at this conference] I got a much clearer vision of what the next phase needs to look like.”
When the Pollock family started Backwards Distilling Company, they knew it wasn’t going to be an easy venture, but with quality products, company integrity, and a world-class marketing campaign, Backwards has really established itself as a force to be reckoned with; a menagerie of, indeed a carnival of spirits. The gold medal they brought home from Nashville is proof of that.
The question that always lingers on the tips of their tongues like the remnants of their Strongman Gin is, of course, what’s next?
“I think these are some really critical times for us, as far as the future success of our company,” Pollock said with a sly grin on her face and a certain determination in her eye. “Now that we know what we know, now that we’ve done what we’ve done, now what?”
Now what, indeed? Pollock didn’t go into specifics, but she did say, “Year 3,” as she called it, is going to be a very important, very busy time for Backwards Distilling Company. She promised a variety of limited releases this year. They’ve been aging various spirits for the past 2 years and the time is almost nigh to release them on Casper.
It’s an exciting time for both Backwards Distilling Company and for those who sample their spirits. When Pollock and company returned from Nashville, it was not their recent gold medal win that they were thinking about. It was making sure that each bottle they present tells a story.
“When you pick up a bottle that looks like it’s been crafted [here], there were people back there that were toiling over this product before it got to you,” Pollock said. “That’s sort of part of the appeal. A lot of love, and care, and attention went into that bottle before it got to you.”
When one opens a bottle of the award-winning Strongman Gin and tastes the juniper and the peppercorns and all of the other various ingredients that Backwards Distilling Company worked so hard to perfect, they can rest assured that though this gin won the attention of numerous judges, it was not made for them. This gin, made with love, care and attention was made for whoever may be drinking it at that exact moment and that, that is the message.
Learn more about Backwards Distilling Company on their website, or visit them Wednesday – Friday from 3-9 p.m., Saturday from 12-9 p.m. and Sunday 12-5 p.m.