After 36 years of vacancy, the Beet Sugar Factory in Glendale is undergoing some serious renovations thanks to Ray Klemp, owner of AZ Wine Company in Cave Creek and Scottsdale. The historic 1906 property will become the new home and distillery of Arroyo Vodka; the first Phoenix based spirit founded by Klemp's daughters, Lauren and Morgan.
Morgan, younger sister and manager of Arroyo Vodka, invited Chow Bella to take a tour of the facility, still very much in the early stages of development. As we walk through she explains how Klemp family vacations always involved tours of vineyards in Italy and France, distilleries in Ireland.
Noting our visible envy, she adds "trust me, it's a little different when you're just a kid, and you don't actually get to taste any of the stuff you're learning about."
But between the tours, the family business, and the high profile wine tastings at home (Ray Klemp often holds tasting events with some of his most valuable clients to meet and greet with well-known winemakers) the Klemp sisters acquired a passion and curiosity for alcohol production.
So how did they end up choosing vodka?
"Well as you can imagine, I had my fair share of vodka `tastings' in college," she admits, laughing, "but then I really felt encouraged to pursue it further. And unlike wine where you need the agricultural investment or aged liquors such as whiskey, which can take a long time, Vodka production has so many possibilities without the heavy turn around. "
Teaming up with distiller John Miller (producing BB's Apple Pye Liqueur) Morgan and Lauren have been selling Arroyo vodka since January 2011. And although building proposals have only just been submitted (they plan on tearing out the five floors to make way for a lofty distillery that will be open to the public for tastings, events, and if they can pull it off, a rooftop bar), Arroyo vodka can already be found on shelves and behind the bars of local businesses such as: AJ's Fine Foods, Tops Liquor, Lon's at the Hermosa Inn, Windsor and Crescent Ballroom.
Arroyo, which stems from the street name of the girls' childhood home, is produced in a traditional Russian style using neutral grains such as barley, then undergoing a heavy filtering and triple distilling process. The Klemp sisters are adamant about making the product as local as possible, even going so far as to use the water from Glendale Wells in the production process.
And while they currently only offer their original vodka, the Klemp sisters plan on releasing 2 Sonoran-inspired vodkas, Hibiscus and Jalapeño Cucumber (as well as a gin), available for tasting in the fall.
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Until then, cocktail connoisseurs can check out Arroyo vodka at an upcoming promo party August 28 at The Downside Risk where bartenders will be conjuring up three Arroyo-based end of summer cocktails.
They'll also be throwing a launch party at Blue Wasabi Scottsdale on September 6 and Blue Wasabi Gilbert September 20 from 6-8, celebrating a new Arizona Centennial Martini, featuring Arroyo Vodka and Queen Creek olives stuffed with either blue cheese or prickly pear (the Arizona Wildfire Sushi will be on special for $5, too, if you really want to go all out with your state pride).
Admission to the Arroyo Promo Party at Downside Risk is $15. For further details on any of the events visit the Arroyo Vodka Facebook page.