Outlaw Distillery Has a Place in Utah’s Spirit Scene

There are times when symbols define who we are. Other times we seek out symbols, and people, and places, that resonate with our current values, attracting certain aspects of our own personalities. For Tyler and Outlaw Distillery, the line between symbol and persona is blurred.

The romanticization of outlaws is attractive to many of us because it’s a symbol of freedom and defiance against outdated social customs and the nonsensical bureaucratic laws that the common people are threatened into observing. Let’s face it, not all rules are for our own good, or the good of society––some are meant to be bent, some are meant to be repealed, and some are meant to be broken.

Outlaw Distillery’s logo is a skull with a revolver and a cowboy hat. Not every picture is worth a thousand words––this one is worth ten thousand. As I sat down with the distillery’s owner, Tyler, one of his first comments to me was to the effect of, you can take pictures of anything in here, except for me.

And I thought, that’s something an outlaw would say.

The similarities between Tyler and the invocations of his brand image just grew stronger from there. It turns out he’s not from around here. He’s not the company’s founder, but he purchased it a few years ago, not even looking to do so. In fact, Tyler told me he was specifically staying away from distilleries as he looked for business opportunities. He thought it was too much hassle to run a distillery and didn’t have much of a natural passion for the industry.

However, when he tasted the product, that passion was instilled within him. He purchased the distillery and has been running it since 2015. Most things he’s kept the same: Tyler sources grain and ingredients locally within Utah. All the processes are “grain to glass,” being made and bottled right inside his store.

The staple of Outlaw Distillery is their bourbon, which is rich and oaky. The sweet velvet texture lingers as it rolls down your throat like the warmth of a winter’s hearth.

But Tyler is an innovator. He’s created his own new and limited small-batch spirits and is currently negotiating with other states for export while increasing production. And in a state like Utah, operating a successful alcohol business is an uphill endeavor.

For Tyler, whether he knows it or not, he has embodied the symbol of the outlaw in his own way. Make no mistake, he loves bourbon, he loves distilling, he loves creating, and anyone or anything that stands in his way must immediately be brought to light and conquered.

Despite Utah’s outrageous liquor laws, making distribution to liquor stores and bars for small distilleries nearly impossible, Outlaw Distillery is fighting tooth and nail to create a space, not just for themselves, but for anyone following beside or behind them. Tyler is active in his pursuit, talking to county and state officials, upholding his industry, persuading disconnected bureaucrats to relax liquor laws that only hamper the growth of small businesses.

Tyler doesn’t have to do this: he didn’t have to buy a distillery in Utah, he didn’t have to innovate and run with it, he doesn’t have to teach his customers the subtle differences between his spirits or how to properly drink them. He advocates and fights red tape because of his passion and proclivity towards carving out a piece of small space to call his own. He’s a modern-day outlaw.

So, the question remains: did Tyler define Outlaw Distillery, or did it define him? Well, as I said, I think that line has been blurred.