New Santa Fe Whiskey Honors Wild West Icon Big-Nose Kate

by Samantha Whidden

A new whiskey produced in Santa Fe is now honoring Doc Holliday’s wife Mary Katherine Horony Cummings, also known as Big Nose Kate.

During an interview with Cowboys and Indians, distiller-blender Melissa Heim opened up about honoring Big Nose Kate with her whiskey venture. “Kate is an afterthought in Wild West lore. And she deserves to be a legend.”

Heim also described Big Nose Kate as being ahead of her time. “She was enigmatic. She outlived all the men whose stories have been told, retold, romanticized, and profited from. It’s well-documented she enjoyed her share of whiskey. And the more I learned about Kate, the more I wanted to share her story. My medium happens to be whiskey.”

In regards to selecting Santa Fe as a base of operations, Heim said that Santa Fe was the site of Big Nose Kate’s famous dance hall. So it made sense to bring her namesake spirit to a “spirited” place from her life. “Second, the stars aligned in our favor when seeking options for a premier co-packer. It happened that my friend and veteran distiller, Caley Shoemaker, was in the process of building her own distillery in the center of town. Could not have dreamed a better fit.”

Distiller Reveals How Her Beverage Is a ‘Western Whiskey’

Besides honoring Big Nose Kate, Heim explains what makes her product a “Western” whiskey. “A Western whiskey, simply put, is not made in the traditional of Kentucky and Tennessee bourbon and whiskey. It’s boundless. It’s wild [and] undefined refined.”

Heim also stated that the West was a “crossroads” of myriad cultures and influences. It was also a “melting pot” where fascinating new combinations formed constantly. “You might think of the Old West itself as an extraordinary and rare ‘blend.’ That’s exactly what this well-traveled whiskey is. And so was Kate, the person.”

When asked what attracts her to the beverage, Heim said drinking and masking whiskey requires a “cerebral collaboration” that satisfies both her analytical and instinctual brain. “Making whiskey is turning prose Ito poetry. And drinking it makes you the poet. It’s a great thing.”

While chatting about her favorite beverage recipes, Heim said she relies heavily on the expertise of both bartenders and mixologists. “They are wizards when it comes to exploiting a brown spirit’s best quality through manipulation. Ask your friendly hospitality professional for suggestions and recommendations. Because there’s no one-size-fits-all. At home, I drink it neat.”

In regards to her future with the beverage, Heim added that whiskey is really versatile. “I enjoy a good Sazerac. I like my cocktails savory. [I] will substitute real fruit for sugar and herbs. Like thyme for mint. In the fall, I like to blend whiskey with warming amorous and digestifs to accompany dinner or dessert.”