Torrington, Wyo. (Story by Denise Heilbrun-Ellis) July 19, 2021 — The business industry in Torrington has been declining the past few years.
With the closing of the ethanol plant in 2015, Western Sugar stopping operations in 2019 and with the hardship for farmers with the collapse of a major irrigation canal also in 2019, it seems like Torrington and the surrounding communities have not had a lot of luck.
But things are on the horizon which could bring much-needed change to residents and farmers.
When visiting Torrington, EthanolUS CEO Ray Digilio, wanted to keep his next business venture in a small rural community which is known for its agriculture. Eric McCormick, COO of EthanolUS, who lives in Sheridan, suggested to Digilio to check Torrington out as it has a closed down facility and the area is exactly what he had been looking for.
After a visit and tour of the area with Goshen County Economic Development Brayden Connour, Goshen County Economic Development Business Director, Digilio decided Torrington was the perfect spot for his latest business. He praises Connour on the arduous work and helping the company getting a foothold with work on funding.
“The proximity of southeast Wyoming to Denver is one of the benefits we see,” Digilio said. “For what we produce and through economic development we qualify for the OZ Fund, working within an established diligent community.”
The OZ Capital Opportunity Zone Fund is designed to encourage long-term private investments in low-income communities. The Opportunity Zones were established by Congress as a part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
The program provides a federal tax incentive for taxpayers who reinvest unrealized capital gains into “Opportunity Funds,” which are specialized vehicles dedicated to investing in low-income areas called “Opportunity Zones.”
The main plant already established for the company is in Cambria, Wisc., about an hour north of Madison. Another facility in Sheridan is going to be basic administration support, McCormick said.
After examination of the ethanol plant in Torrington and obtaining bids for upgrade, the plant would have just cost too much to upgrade, so that plan was scraped, informed Digilio.
“Seeing as we want food grade ethanol, it’s manufacturing is different,” Digilio said. “This time it’s for production for the consumption in the form of bulk spirits.”
The groundbreaking set for Sept. 1 in the Cold Springs business Park south of town for an 18,000 sq. ft. building. And soon the company is planning to do a large beverage upgrade.
Over the last six months, EthanolUS and its subsidiaries, LIBEX (barrel aged whiskey), Free Brands (bottled well spirits), and The Cannery (canned ready-to-drink beverages) have been processing thousands of gallons of spirits for the U.S. beverage market and rapidly growing international markets.
According to their website, EthanolUS are the experts in producing high-quality, consistent bulk Grain Neutral Spirits (GNS), Neutral Grain Spirits, (NGS), Gin (Citrus, Floral, Traditional), Whiskey (Aged/ Unaged) and Rum. Over the last decade the team has built relationships with reliable producers of tequila, mezcal, brandy, and scotch to offer authentic import products. Whether you are craft distillery, winery, brewery, blender, private label, co-packer, bottler, or rectifier EthanolUS has the needs covered from grain to glass.
“We’re here, we’re hiring for what we need now,” Digilio said. “We’ll begin with five to 10 employees at the beginning, considering on the value and what we have to push, and then as we grow it could be up to 20 to 30 employees. It’s a multi-year plan. We must stay lean for about two years to build up the business. We will be hiring a distiller manager, as more packaging contracts come about. Then add a canning line, automatic bottling machine, in-house products, with all of our products the focus will be in bulk.”
EthanolUS provides gluten-free ethanol beverages including grain neutral spirit, citrus, traditional and botanical gin, rum and whiskey. Available in 55 gal. drums, 270 galloon totes and 7,800 gal. stainless steel tankers. Offered in cucumber, citrus, juniper berry, lavender, jalapeno, serrano, bloody mary and chocolate distillate flavors. GMP and REACH compliant.
Digilio is considered a Master Distiller in his field. The title does not come with certificates, it comes with working hard and learning with his art as a brewer and winning several awards over many years. He is a double gold award winner and has worked with some of the largest and most successful spirit companies in the US and Internationally.
Digilio added, Torrington also happens to be situated in an Opportunity Zone (a tax haven for astute investors seeking shelter from capital gains). Investors who are seeing the company’s growth and potential are already starting to line up.
One can invest in a barrel of whiskey, taste it as it ages and reap the rewards when it’s sold. Digilio and his EthanolUS team plan to hold hospitality events to introduce the locals to their business and visit with them about how the whiskey ages and becomes more profitable as it ages.
The company does multiple purity and grades of ethanol for personal care like sanitizing agents, all the way from extraction with the cbd process and they put out beverage grade ethanol, for like Coors, vodka, it’s used to fortify wine, gin, GNS (grade neutral spirits).
“We have a low imprint on the land, and we are introducing jobs,” Digilio said. “We are not just the fat cats. We’re going to be employing people, put things back into the community, start grants for the colleges, and offer profit-share for the community.”
Digilio said he had spoken to Gov. Mark Gordon and UW President Ed Seidel when they were in Torrington recently about working with the colleges.
“It’s all about education, diversification and jobs,” Digilio said. “After touring what we have started and the plans, both were on-board.”
“There will be more support for local business as people come in from all over the US and internationally. Those traveling here will be spending their money, going to restaurants, bars, hotels,” he continued.
The Didion Milling (the partner company) in Cambria, are in total support of EthanolUS,” Digilio said. “Taking something, making a widget company, and doing a partnership with producing higher purity and goods. Didion has the quality because they sell food products. They have all the certifications and now they are going to give us a nice backing and support on the production side. Cambria is a committed smaller community, smaller than Torrington. The Didion family even opened a bar there. That family will be coming here and help us make this place an opportunity to be successful too.”
Digilio wants to compete with the big boys with bulk spirits. Bulk whiskey, bulk beverage grade production.
“It’s not really a brand, but brands under production,” he said. “Some of our brands we co-pack, we have stock in their growth, our incubator.”
The barrels the whiskey is placed into will be coming from Kentucky. They are made from American oak. New barrels must be bought, and then have a char number put on it from one to five. The different char levels depend on how long it sits on the fire.
The barrels are placed in Rickhouses, which is what EthanolUS will be adding to Cold Springs Business Park. The barrels are stored horizontally on racks, also known as ricks, usually stacked three high, with plenty of room for air circulation around the sides and ends. The buildings can made from a variety of materials—tin, brick, wood, concrete, and usually lack artificial climate control, which means no air conditioning in the summer, no heating in the winter. The result is extreme seasonal fluctuation in temperature, which causes the liquid in the barrels to expand when it’s hot and contract when it’s cold, which helps in the aging of the whiskey.
“That’s what really drives the whiskey into the wood,” Digilio said.
Rickhouses are labor-intensive; getting barrels into and out of the ricks requires strength on the part of trained workers.
The team at EthanolUS already has contracts for the 2022 season, and is getting more, focusing on California and Denver and has plans to be up and running this winter.
In the future Digilio will need local farmers to contract for more exotic crops such as millet, winter wheat, blue corn, rye and barley. He also plans to visit with Eastern Wyoming College administration about collaborating with them on getting classes for training for this unique venture, such as for cellarmen.
“It’s a lot of science,” Digilio said. “It’s fermentation, blending, learning to produce recipes in a consistent fashion. Knowing what the consumers want. It’s kind of like a being an executive chef.”
McCormick added, “Whiskey consumption is going up big time. Eleven percent globally, and the Asian market is up 20 percent. Internationally everyone wants American whiskey. They think Jack Daniel’s is the best. We are setting a tone for higher quality in the market. We are ready to compete for sure. Our whiskey, gin, rum and vodka will be sold to help meet these needs.”
For more information on EthanolUS, visit their website at www.ethanolUS.com, or for investors interested in the LIBEX whiskey bonds go to www.LIBEX.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.