During our California and Arizona Route 66 road trip we spent a day exploring Kingman, Arizona. Kingman is known for being an important railroad and Route 66 stop. Kingman also has an airport which used to be the site of a large World War II training center. Next door to that airport is Desert Diamond Distillery, Kingman’s craft distillery. Of course we had to stop in for a tasting and a tour!
Our first impression of Desert Diamond Distillery when we walked through the door was that it looked like a cool place to visit and hang out. Desert Diamond Distillery isn’t just a place to visit for a tasting and leave. They also create cocktails with their craft spirits, like the Blueberry Mojito made with their Gold Miner Dark Rum or the Desert Sunrise with their Gold Miner Agave Rum with orange, mango, and pineapple juices, so visitors are encouraged to sit down and stay awhile.
We started our visit with a tasting flight while we learned about the spirits Desert Diamond Distillery has been crafting for almost six years. All of D3’s spirits are sugar based and start with molasses. A tasting flight starts with a taste of the Gold Miner Rum, a white rum. The Gold Miner Rum has a bite that is to be expected from a white rum, but it is also smooth and has a slight sweetness.
Next was the Gold Miner Vodka, which starts with the white rum. It’s pretty unusual to encounter a vodka that is sugar cane based. It’s also pretty unusual to encounter a vodka made at a craft distillery, which we learned later on the tour. That’s because their still is a two column still with enough steps to reach the higher alcohol content needed to make vodka. If you don’t think it’s possible to make a sugar based vodka that tastes good, you’ll have to taste Gold Miner Vodka. It’s one of the most unique vodkas you’ll taste, and it tastes like vodka.
Desert Diamond Distillery’s Gold Miner Dark Rum also starts with the white rum. The white rum is aged over French and American oak chips. Some compare the taste of the dark rum to a good bourbon. When Desert Diamond Distillery was first starting out, they wanted to test their products against the competition to see if they were doing it right. In 2011, they entered their spirits at the 2011 SIP Awards. They received a bronze for the white rum, a silver for the vodka, and a silver for the agave rum. But the biggest winner was the Gold Miner Dark Rum, which received a platinum medal.
Desert Diamond Distillery first bottled their Gold Miner Barrel Reserve Rum in 2012. This aged rum starts yet again with the white rum, which is aged in lightly toasted new wood barrels for 42 months. It’s like a white whiskey. Each barrel makes approximately 400 bottles, and each batch is numbered. During our visit, we tasted number eight. Barrel number seven won the second gold medal D3 has won for their aged rum at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Our final tasting was of the Gold Miner Agave Rum. At the time D3 crafted their first agave rum, agave nectar had recently become a popular ingredient. Agave nectar is added to the Gold Miner Dark Rum and it is meant to be enjoyed straight as an after-dinner drink. It is sweet and has a nice aroma. The thought was to market the agave rum to women, but it has become a huge hit with all genders.
After our tasting flight, we took the behind the scenes tour to learn more about the distillery’s history and process. Desert Diamond Distillery is a family affair. John Patt is the master distiller. He owns the distillery with his father, Peter Patt, who gave us our tour. John’s mother, Deborah, is the manager and gave us our tasting tour.
When Desert Diamond Distillery opened in April 2010, there were probably less than 100 craft distilleries in the country. (According to Fortune there were about 50 in 2005 while in 2015 there were almost 800.) John Patt took a distilling course from a German company that made stills. In the meantime, he was already building a distillery on the Kingman airfield. After he completed his training, he was planning on purchasing just a still, but since he already had a place set up, the company offered him a fully integrated computerized system that could make any kind of spirit. They like to call their system the Cadillac of stills. Even the cleaning process is computerized, taking two minutes instead of hours to manually clean, giving them more time to work on their craft. This Cadillac of stills is also what allows them to make vodka, something not many craft distilleries can do.
It’s a lot harder to make a profit as a craft distillery than a craft brewery. While craft breweries can charge a lot more for their beer than the big guys, the same cannot necessarily be said for craft distilleries, plus the taxes distilleries have to pay are pretty hefty. Peter told us that in order to have a chance of making it long term, a distillery has to offer a good, aged product. Desert Diamond Distillery has won medals for their barrel reserve rum four years in a row, so they’ve got a good start. Judging by the barrels they’ve got aging currently, that run will continue.
Be sure to make Kingman a stop on your Route 66 road trip and fit in a taste and a tour at Desert Diamond Distillery.
Thank you to Go Kingman for hosting the Kingman portion of our trip along Route 66 and making this post possible. As always, all opinions are my own.