Blue Clover Distillery owner’s offshore oil knowledge successfully fuels his Scottsdale gin, vodka operation

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At a glance, Weston Holm’s resume appears to be a hodgepodge of independent experiences that have zero in common.

But Holm, co-owner of Blue Clover Distillery, doesn’t see it that way.

A third-generation farmer who built and managed offshore oil production facilities, Holm is responsible for the gin and vodka that gets churned out from his Scottsdale facility.

Holm applies his oil distilling knowledge to distilling his spirits, which are crafted form corn – the main crop grown on his family’s Colorado farm years ago.

“By natural chance, all roads brought me back to a business that encompassed every part of my life to where it is today,” Holm said. “It’s a little surreal, to be honest with you.”

Gin and other sips

Holm put the confluence of his professional and personal pedigrees into motion when he opened Blue Clover in 2017. Holm owns the distillery with longtime family friends Duane Koch and his son Scott. The Kochs live in New Mexico, where Holm grew up, while Holm handles day-to-day operations at the distillery.

Blue Clover’s gin is its flagship spirit and, like its sister sips, is distilled in custom 100 percent copper stills crafted in Kentucky. This, Holm explained, is responsible for the natural chemical reaction that happens with the alcohol that results in an exceptionally smooth and slightly sweet flavor. Holm likens it to how the taste of metal in a pen changes when it’s in your mouth.

“(When) cooking spirits in all copper, that conducted heat sends a natural reaction that make it cook and boil much sweeter and smoother… That’s (from) my oil and gas knowledge,” Holm said.

In addition to the base gin and vodka, Holm makes vodka in flavors grapefruit, strawberry, blood orange and lemon, and pineapple and blood orange gins. Every batch is made by hand with Holm and his team sampling to ensure the flavor is spot on. He’s currently working on an aged gin.

The incorporation of Arizona citrus, prickly pear, peach along with the compulsory juniper are also part of the formula.

“Our gin is completely unique to the southwest. It completely takes people by surprise,” Holm said.

‘I’ve got oranges and vodka in my mouth and that’s it’

Blue Clover has amassed more than 160 local accounts including shelf space in Total Wine, Costco and AJ’s Fine Foods, he said. It’s also made its way to New Mexico retailers.

Holm’s venture is part of a growing distilled spirits industry that is responsible for more than $1.6 million of Arizona’s gross domestic product and nearly $1.2 million in exports, according to the American Distilling Institute.

Scottsdale resident and huge supporter of all businesses local, Robb Tyler and his wife have been regulars at Blue Clover since it opened. For them, the venue hits all the right notes from the cocktails and food to the atmosphere and service so much so that Tyler has used it as the site for business social hours he coordinates for his mortgage brokerage firm Opus Funding & Investments.

“They really nailed it. It’s easy for us to flow around. It’s easy to start conversations with strangers. It’s a very inclusive space,” Tyler said.

The Tylers are fans of the flatbread selections and the pork shank wings appetizer. His favorite spirit is the blood orange vodka while his wife’s is the strawberry version.

“A lot of infused spirits out there taste like chemicals or candy-esque. The infusions at Blue Clover really taste like the real components in there. (I think) I’ve got oranges and vodka in my mouth and that’s it,” Tyler said.

He said every detail has been well thought out, which makes is one of his favorite spots in a sea of competition. He credited Holm.

“The key of it all is the presence of the owner and the obvious culture he’s created with the staff. It can be just my wife and I, or a group of 50 and we get the same treatment and easy going attitude,” Tyler said.

A distillery made perfect sense

A native of Albuquerque, Holm is the third generation of a farming family that raised corn and fruit in La Junta, Colorado. Although the farm is no longer there, it lives in Holm’s corn-based wares.

Holm spent 10 years building and starting offshore oil facilities in the Gulf of Mexico. His schedule was two weeks on and two weeks off. He purchased an old commercial warehouse and built it out on his off intervals. He moved small businesses into it. One of them was a rooftop bar he helped the owner design. Holm enjoyed it. He also saw an opportunity.

Most don’t see the similarities between oil and spirits. But Holm did. In addition to his recent commercial development experience, he drew upon his experiences working in the food and beverage industry throughout college. He combined a diverse and eclectic combination of know-how and used it to start his own business. A distillery made perfect sense.

“What you do to distill and run the process to make gas and hydrocarbons for vehicles is the same way you make vodka. The equipment is similar,” Holm said. After a pause he added, “This is actually a toy compared to what I’ve dealt with.”

Holm’s long-distance relationship with his Valley-residing girlfriend brought him to Scottsdale often, as did spring training games, bachelor parties and getaway weekends. The city caught his eye. He wanted to be here. It led to Old Town’s first ever distillery.

“You have all of these wonderful neighborhood bars and bar owners and the local friendly atmosphere. We thought we’d fill that void,” he said.

Holm joined forces with the Kochs, who run a commercial construction company. He went to school with Scott and their families had close ties in Albuquerque. Together, they designed and built the distillery and tasting room, which opened its doors to the public in February.

The family business vibe continues with Holm’s sister UFC legend Holly Holm, who is often seen promoting her big brother’s distillery.

At first, Holm relied on self-distribution – another facet that beckons to his farming roots.

“It was almost like delivering milk on the front doorstep like a farm kid, but delivering spirits,” he said.

A simple distillery and tasting room wasn’t enough. Holm kept a close watch on the craft beer scene and saw it explode. The difference: More breweries started to offer quality, in-house made food along with their in-house made brews. This, he explained, led to the wave of high-end breweries that effectively changed and elevated the landscape of that industry.

Blue Clover features a scratch kitchen menu that flaunts a lineup spanning appetizers, burgers, salads and flatbreads. This creates Holm’s desired trifecta of distillery, mixology bar and restaurant – a concept whose time has come.

“That’s where I got the vision from,” Holm said. “Craft distillers are now on a boom and it’s coming fast.”

Blue Clover Distillery

Where: 7042 E. Indian School Road, Scottsdale

Employees: 15

Interesting stat: There are more than1,500 craft spirits distillers in the nation, according to the American Craft Spirits Association.

Details: 480-946-1062, bluecloverdistillery.com

Read or Share this story: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2019/09/22/scottsdale-gin-vodka-operation-makes-spirits-old-fashioned-way/2012606001/

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