From School teacher to Distiller, The Story of Ashley Cross
In 2013, after teaching High School English for 23 years, Ashely Cross told her husband Chris she didn’t want to go back for year 24. Her plan was to turn their hobby into a business, and New World Distillery was born.
Ashley and Chris both enjoyed traveling, and their trips often involved experiencing the local liquors at different locales, turning hobby travel into a chance to learn the distilling business.
“We liked to travel and visit distilleries. Chris, in particular, is interested in agave. We traveled to Mexico distilleries and also learned artisan backyard distilling techniques,” Ashley says.
Ashley is a gin drinker, and they learned the art of gin distilling, partly in Amsterdam.
“The places we visited for fun became the places we visited to learn. When you think you know everything you should, just get out of the business. It doesn’t matter what you are doing ― because then you can’t move forward.” Ashley chose an industry where there is so much to learn. She says it is equal parts interesting and scary.
They broke ground in March 2016 and opened New World in December 2016. They kept the exterior simple. Ashley says it resembles a barn, and the hard work done inside includes all things necessary to start a distillery.
An early decision launched their business. “We had to make a decision to be open for 20 days in December, and pay all the local and federal fees for an entire year, or wait until January 1st,” Ashley says. They ultimately decided to open in December, and it paid off. 2016 was a heavy snow year and there were lots of tourists in town for skiing. They visited the new distillery, and even with only one product on the shelves, they made enough to justify the expensive fees.
What prompts someone to start a new career? Ashley explains, “I think people are living longer today, living to be 100. You can start thinking of 50 as the half-way mark, and what are you going to do with the second half of your life?”
That’s what started the discussion for her, along with the chance to work closely with her husband after spending a lot of time apart while he was in the military and traveling for other employment.
Choosing a distillery was partly due to a hobby they loved, and practical thinking. There aren’t many distilleries in Utah, and some of those don’t distill in-house, but instead, bring in a product and rebottle it. Seeing a scarcity of actual distilleries, and despite the challenges of dealing with the DABC in Utah, they made plans to go forward. And besides, after a long commute teaching school, Ashley was delighted to switch to a 7-minute commute from their home to New World.
Being one of only a handful of distilleries in Utah is also challenging. Ashley explains that there is not a united body of representatives for distilleries, like a guild. One was attempted a few years ago, but fell apart because of divisiveness between distillers that distill and those that import. Ashley would like to see a true craft distillers’ guild in Utah. “Without it you are on your own,” she says. She collaborates with James Fowler of Sugar House Distillery, and Julia and Alan Scott of Waterpocket Distillery.
Being in what is considered a male-dominated business doesn’t concern Ashley too much. “Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a rise in women’s voices and it has made men scared to death to say anything. I think it has men being really careful and sometimes overly careful. I don’t mind taking a back seat to something I’m not as good at as another man or woman. I don’t make a big deal out of it. I am secure in my femininity.”
The future looks great at New World. They recently added a third still that arrived this month. The new still will keep things running while the slow processing of aging the Ogden 9 Rails Bourbon Whiskey takes place. Ashley says the other products pay for the time while the whiskey is sitting. The Ogden 9 Rails is one of their most popular products, with people waiting in the parking lot on release days.
The new still is called Ruth, after Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a character from the series Ozark; both strong, powerful women. Ashley says that stills are named after women because, “they are complex and sexy, and get a lot done, but they can be difficult and challenging at times.”
New World Distillery is located at 4795 E 2600 N, Eden, Utah.
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