Connie Baker, Co-Founder, CEO, and Head Distiller at Marble Distilling Co in Carbondale wears a lot of hats at her Colorado distillery, but one thing always shines through, her fierce dedication to sustainability and educating others in the craft and heritage spirits industry about how to develop sustainable distilling practices. Her path took her from working in the pharmacy industry to working in spirits and she has never looked back.
BW: How did you end up working in the industry?
CB: I went to distilling school on a whim, thinking I would become a hobbyist. The school was in a working distillery and basically, you were forced labor while there – I LOVED it. Came home and told my husband, WE are opening a distillery.
BW: How do you use your background in the pharmacy industry? How did your background prepare you (or not) to start a distillery and become a distiller?
CB: Switching from Drugs to Booze was the smartest move I made 🙂 But seriously, I was in Big Pharma in communications, so the transition to communicating how great craft spirits can be, was not tough. I’ve applied all my marketing and communication skills to the craft distilling industry.
BW: Your distillery prioritizes sustainability. Can you talk a little bit about what you all do that’s groundbreaking in the industry and the path you took to get there?
CB: Our family and community is super green, so when considering starting a new business, sustainability was included in every conversation. We developed a first-of-its-kind Water and Energy Thermal System that recaptures 4 Million gallons of condensing water and 1.8 Billion BTUs of energy each year without sacrificing any quality – we’ve won more than 40 awards for our spirits. Most people don’t realize it takes nearly 100 bottles of water to make 1 bottle of vodka. We made a decision to do it differently.
BW: What’s one thing you wish people understood better about sustainability and its impact on the whiskey and spirits industry?
CB: The beverage industry is a huge energy and water user, but Marble has proven there is a better way, one that doesn’t harm the environment to make first-class, premium spirits. Every time you buy a bottle, you are making a decision to support a producer who you can get behind. Vote with your wallet.
BW: What are some of the changes you’d most like to see in the industry?
CB: Acknowledgement that we need to make changes quickly. The planet cannot wait.
BW: Since you all are a small operation with just 16 employees, what does your day-to-day life in the distillery look like?
CB: This morning, I was the plumber 🙂 fixing a leaking steam trap on the still. Our entire team is exactly that, A TEAM. We all jump in when needed, where needed. The distilling team, including me, will load grain, mash, move mash & stillage to take to local farms, distill, ferment, proof & barrel, supply chain management, bottling, tours & tastings – we do it all. Sometimes it’s a long list, but the end result is worth it.
BW: What advice do you have for women who want to be a part of the whiskey industry?
CB: Whether you are a specialist or a generalist, there’s a place for you. We’ve had two sustainability MBA students intern for us and both thought they would end up in the energy industry. There is energy in the spirits industry!
BW: What are some of the things you’d like to see to support women in the industry?
CB: Matter of factness. . . I am tired of hearing “YOU are the distiller?” when I show up to do a tour. Perhaps just seeing more faces of women in publications, articles, and advertisements?
BW: We’d love to hear more about your inn in the distillery where your guests can “sleep with the stills!”
CB: What better end to an evening of sipping whiskey than to walk upstairs and enjoy luxury linens, a fluffy robe, and cozy fireplace, and a spa bath? Seriously! No need to go far. Feel free to wear your fluffy robe to the tasting room! Carbondale is a quaint little mountain town, so The Distillery Inn is a bit of surprise luxury with whiskey to boot!
BW: What was something surprising you learned in your early days in the business?
CB: There are no shortage of super creative distillers out there. Sometimes, because we all know the large brands, the smaller producers are not recognized for the amount of innovation they have brought to the spirits business. The little guys are the innovators causing the bigger companies to step up their game.
BW: Tell me about your perfect whiskey weekend in Colorado?
CB: Heading to Marble Colorado, just 25 miles on Hwy 133 South, on the West Elk Byway one of the most scenic routes in Colorado. Upon arrival, relax by the river with a lighter whiskey – it’s only noon or maybe craft a whiskey cocktail to mix it up a bit. Visit Slow Groovin BBQ for dinner on the patio under a moonlit sky while sipping their great selection of Colorado craft whiskies. Head to the firepit to sip a nightcap while enjoying the stars – no streetlights here! The Marble history books have many tales of moonshiners in these mountains – knowing making spirits continues with the 90+ Colorado craft distillers more than 100 years later is pretty cool.