Sunday, April 7, 2024

Drunk on Geomorphology - Waterpocket Distillery

The next Drunk on Geology is for the Waterpocket Distillery out of Salt Lake City, UT. 

Before leaving Utah I made it a mission to visit the Waterpocket Distillery because there are few alcohols that more encompass the geology than this one. The distillery is named after the characteristic fold in the rocks that encompasses Capitol Reef National Park. According to the distillery's website:
The Waterpocket Fold gives form to the Capitol Reef and the national park that bears this name, and now gives its name to Waterpocket® Distillery.
Some of the offerings from the Waterpocket Distillery

Not only is the Waterpocket Distillery named after a geological feature, they also have geologically themed alcohols within their collection including the Temple of the Moon Gin, the image on the Waterpocket Cocoa & Rum, and the Toadstool Notom Amaro No. 1. 

Entrance sign to Capitol Reef National Park

The most characteristic features of Capitol Reef is the way that the rocks have been folded across the park. With an axis running nearly 100 miles north to south, is a feature called the Waterpocket Fold. There are several different types of folds when we look at rocks. When rocks are folded in a "U" shape, this is called an syncline. When rocks are folded the opposite way, essentially an "A" shape, this is called an anticline. However, when you have a stair-step fold, where one side of the fold is generally horizonal, then its comes down to another horizonal layer, you have what is called a monocline, and that is what the Waterpocket Fold is. You can essentially see this fold in the way that the rocks dip towards the east through much of the park, such as in the image above looking towards the south.
Cross section of the Waterpocket Fold by Ron Blakey. Image courtesy of the NPS

Looking west off the Cohab Canyon Overlook  you can see the dip of the beds towards the east as well as most of the rock units we talked about.

Google Earth view of the Water Pocket Fold (VE = 3)

As you can see in the profile above of the Waterpocket Fold, there are several rock formations that make up the rocks in Capitol Reef NP. Folded approximately 50 to 70 million years ago, the rocks within the park mainly range in age from the Early Permian age White Rim Sandstone (~280 million years old) to the Late Jurassic Age Morrison Formation (~150 million years old). Because of the Waterpocket Fold, the older rocks are easier to see in the western portion of the park and the younger rocks are more exposed in the eastern portion of the park. 

Let us focus in on the liquors from the Waterpocket Distillery. In the north part of Capitol Reef National Park is Cathedral Valley, where you can find the Temple of the Moon. The Temple of the Moon is pictured on both The Temple of the Moon Gin, from which the gin was named, and a more stylized version on the Waterpocket Cocoa & Rum. 

The text on the back of the Waterpocket Cocoa & Rum
We take our turbinado sugar & blackstrap molasses rum (fermented & distilled in-house, then aged in used whiskey barrels), and combine it with fermented and sun-dried Caribbean cocoa custom-roasted at the distillery. Open Wild for a decadent rum sipping experience, rich in cacao, spice, and rum flavor. 
The text on the back of the Temple of the Moon Gin
We dedicate this gin to the sacred Temple of the Moon in Capitol Reef's Cathedral Valley. Inspired by the juniper and pinion forests of Utah's high desert country, we crafted a gin of uncompromising artistry and beauty. Made with: Coriander, Lemon Peel, Lavender, Angelica, Ginger, and 10 other botanicals. 
Temples of the Sun and Moon. Image courtesy of William Belvin from

The monoliths of the Temples of the Sun (in the background) and Moon (foreground) are composed of the Entrada Sandstone. Looking at the cross section above, the Entrada sandstone is exposed along the eastern portions of the park and is one of the youngest rocks exposed in the park. The Entrada Sandstone is a buff-pink colored sandstone deposited during the Jurassic age (~150 million years old), formed from a coastal dune environment. The Entrada Sandstone is the same formation that is more well known as the rock that the arches are comprised of in Arches National Park, located to the east of Capitol Reef National Park.

South Window Arch in Arches National Park

The cement in the Entrada Sandstone is one of the key ingredients. Many sandstones are cemented by silica, which is basically a dissolved type of quartz, a very hard mineral. Those types of sandstones are incredibly difficult to erode. The Entrada Sandstone, however, is cemented with calcite, a mineral that easily dissolves in slightly acidic water, such as the calcite in caves. This means that it crumbles fairly easily and is removed rapidly by flowing water. 

Capping the Entrada Sandstone in these parts is the Curtis Sandstone. A grayish-green sandstone and siltstone that is more more resistant to erosion than the Entrada and protects the monoliths from complete erosion. 

The last bottle pictured above is the Toadstool Notom Amaro No. 1. From the Waterpocket Distillery's website:
Like the toadstools of Escalante's Grand Staircase, the great artistry of these liqueurs and bitters is the delicate balancing act of bitterness, aromatics, and other natural flavors. A warming of the throat and stomach highlights the traditional consumption of this type of spirit as a digestive or digestif, or after-dinner liqueur. We think this also make them perfect for after-ski, after-hike, or as an intense flask-filler for your next adventure into the wilderness.
Toadstools in Grand Staircase Escalante. Image courtesy of Visit Utah.

The Toadstool is named after geological features not in Capitol Reef this time but those a little further to the south in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. These features are known as the Toadstool Hoodoos. Hoodoos are:
 A column, pinnacle, or pillar of rock produced in a region of sporadic heavy rainfall by differential weathering or erosion of horizontal strata, facilitated by joints and by layers of varying hardness, and occurring in varied and often eccentric or grotesque forms. (Dictionary of Geological Terms, 3rd Ed.)
View of some of the equipment in the distillery. 

Even though these toadstools are much further south than the Temple of the Moon, these are also formed from the Entrada Sandstone, however here instead of being capped by the Curtis Sandstone, they are capped by the Dakota Sandstone. As the Entrada Sandstone erodes away, the much more resistant Dakota Sandstone protects the smaller column in the middle, much like the Temples of the Moon and the Sun. 

The Dakota Sandstone is Early Cretaceous in age, ~100 million years old, and represents the western shore of the very large Cretaceous Interior Seaway. The Dakota is made up of yellow to grey sandstones, mudstones, and a few thin beds of coal. These were deposited within a wide range of coastal environments including deltas, alluvial fans, and coastal deposits.

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