DRIGGS, Idaho - A retired Driggs couple is turning Idaho's famous potatoes into vodka. Grand Teton Vodka began operation last week in a distillery that was built from the ground up.
As a small, family business of three employees, it all happens along Idaho 33.
"Corks still get put in by hand," said John Boczar, the head distiller. It was just one year ago when his mom, Lea Beckett, and her husband, Bill, thought of developing a potato vodka.
"It's smoothing going down," said Boczar. "(It) doesn't have that antiseptic-y burn like whiskey and corn grains."
That's because it all starts with Idaho's famous spuds in the form of flakes from Ririe. They're cooked with enzymes in an 800-liter vessel.
"Turns from big, thick mashed potatoes and liquifies," said Boczar. "It's actually quite cool."
Once the starch becomes sugar, that mush is fermented for three and a half days. Add in yeast, and that sugar becomes alcohol.
Idaho law doesn't allow liquor tasting, so reporter Marissa Bodnar tasted the result of the fermenting process; what's known as potato beer.
"It's when I move it over to 'still' and vaporize the alcohol, which concentrates it," said Boczar. "That's when it becomes vodka."
Boczar said mineral-rich Teton Valley aquifer spring water is added back in from a well on the property. It's polished through charcoal and garnett crystals then filtered one last time before being bottled.
Looking over cases of his product ready to be shipped out, Bill Beckett said starting a business as a senior citizen has been interesting.
"We're kind of 'do-ers,'" said Bill Beckett.
But he has high hopes.
"(We) hope to add employment in the county, hope to add to the economic well-being," said Bill Beckett.
The family's not sure where the venture will take them, but they're certainly enjoying the ride.
A 750 ml bottle of Grand Teton Vodka retails for $19. A 375 ml size is also offered in a water bottle.
Beckett said 30 cases were shipped out last week, and another 45 will be shipped on Thursday.