Rob Sergent: Distilling a life in Utah
The first thing Rob Sergent observed when he arrived in Park City six years ago was the beauty of Summit County. The second thing he envisioned was the place where he could combine his passions of family, fresh air and community involvement with his desire to start a business.
So when Sergent and his wife, Sara, decided to open Alpine Distilling in 2016, Park City proved to be the right place.
“My father is a certified dentist and he’s also a distiller,” Sergent says. “My family settled in Kentucky in the 1700s, and distilling has been a part of our history for generations. But the main reason I wanted to distill professionally was the chance to stay at home, be with my family and help teach my children the value of hard work.”
Sergent spent 15 years working for Johnson & Johnson, and before that with the NFL, traveling extensively. He remembers that at one point, “my 11-year-old said that he thought what I did for a living was pack a suitcase.”
Enough was enough. Sergent returned to Kentucky for some training with master distillers, and he and Sara started plans for Alpine Distilling in 2015. The company has quickly developed an international reputation for its crafted liquors.
Spirits International Prestige (SIP) awarded its Platinum medal in 2016 to Preserve Liqueur, Alpine’s premiere product, and a gold medal in 2016 to Lafayette Spiced Flavored Bourbon. This year, SIP presented Traveler’s Rest Single Malt Whiskey with a gold medal and Persistent Vodka with a silver medal. To earn SIP awards for all four products in the first years of their existence is almost unprecedented.
Sergent credits the water as a key factor in Alpine’s products. He says the Park City facility was chosen specifically for the water supply, which comes from an under-mountain aquifer and arrives at a perfect temperature from Silver Creek. Each of Alpine’s products are carefully crafted. They are sold at many Utah State Liquor stores as well as online on the ForWhiskeyLovers website and at the distillery.
But there’s more to this story—a very important element that Rob and Sara wanted to encompass into their business—giving back to the community. Step back 12 years, to August 2005, when Rob and Sara, then newlyweds, were living on Bayou St. John in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina decimated the city.
“I’d lived through hurricanes before,” he says, “but when Katrina hit, it was very devastating. We lost everything—photographs, Sara’s wedding dress. But it turned out to be a good thing in that everything we now have, we’ve earned together. And what I learned is that there was no Bayou St. John preservation plan, nothing to help it come back. No matter what else we do going forward, we want to preserve our backyard.”
That is both literally and figuratively true for the Sergents, whose home overlooks the Swaner EcoCenter in Park City.
“We see the nature preserve out our back window, and in fact that’s what inspired the name for our Preserve Liqueur. The color of it is a tribute to the beautiful sunsets we see here over the preserve. We know the value and importance of preserving our own community space. So we’ve been donating 5 percent of all Preserve sales to Swaner, to help them with their educational efforts and preservation of critical wetland green-space and other important initiatives.”