In Aspen, Colorado, a dispensary has customers rethinking the cannabis-buying experience.
At Dalwhinnie Farms, weed is sold next to Rolex watches, leather bags, and crystal glassware.
This shopping experience was intentionally designed to create a welcoming environment for the ski town’s elite.
Aspen is renowned for luxury, and even the ski town’s dispensaries fit into that reputation.
It’s also home to places like “Billionaire Mountain,” a neighborhood where some of the world’s richest people live, and is known as a wintery escape for celebrities craving five-star experiences or casual chic après ski.
That luxe notoriety is felt in town everywhere from its designer stores all the way to its dispensaries. Because in Aspen, even purchasing weed is an extravagant experience.
The ski town is home to a handful of dispensaries, but Dalwhinnie Farms, in particular, oozes luxury.
Dalwhinnie Farms originated 160 miles away from Aspen at the base of the San Juan Mountains in Ridgway, Colorado. There, the owners turned a 200-acre equestrian ranch into a cannabis operation, according to the company’s website.
The ranch-turned-farm is now home to a 25,000-square-foot indoor facility and an equally sized greenhouse where its cannabis flower is grown.
When it came time to open the company’s flagship store, there was one destination that fit the brand the best — Aspen, Brandon Barksdale, the CEO of Dalwhinnie Farms, told Insider.
Barksdale said that not only is Aspen home to the brand’s targeted clientele but that Aspen mimics the same beauty of where the cannabis is grown.
In the fall of 2020, Dalwhinnie Farms opened its first store in the ski town known for brick streets lined with designer boutiques, influencers decked in high-end ski gear, and restaurants with months-long waitlists.
“When someone walks by our store, the first thing that they see are the subtleties, the comfortability, the warm leathers,” Barksdale told Insider. “They see a welcoming boutique that’s traditional to the Aspen landscape.”
But beyond the warm leathers is what Dalwhinnie’s known for — cannabis.
The moment visitors approach the boutique, they recognize the experience will go beyond the conventional dispensary experience.
If it wasn’t for gold, block lettering that reads “cannabis,” visitors might walk by Dalwhinnie without realizing it sells weed.
Peeking through Dalwhinnie’s windows, curtains block views inside. Instead, a large vase, branded candles, and cannabis-themed jewelry fill the window display.
It’s quite a contrast from other dispensaries in Colorado that often boast colorful neon lights, kitschy nicknames, and gated doors.
Ultimately, Dalwhinnie Farms hopes to make the cannabis-buying experience comfortable and approachable.
For some people, the experience of going into and shopping at dispensaries often feels intimidating. Dalwhinnie Farms’ goal is to eliminate that feeling by creating a warm and welcoming environment, Barksdale said.
The company’s key approach to accomplishing this is by offering more than just cannabis.
From displays of jewelry to fine art to a cozy lounge space, Dalwhinnie isn’t a traditional dispensary. Those unconventional elements are why the company has coined itself a boutique instead of a dispensary, Barksdale said.
When you enter, there’s a roped-off section where a “cannaseur” will check your ID.
Instead of “cannabis specialists” or “budtenders,” as sales staff are often called at other dispensaries, the people working at Dalwhinnie are titled “cannaseurs.”
Before customers can shop — whether for a crystal wine glass or a box of edible brownie mix — a cannaseur checks guests’ IDs to make sure they’re at least 21, the minimum legal age to buy cannabis in Colorado.
Whether you’re an experienced cannabis user or it’s your first time consuming, the cannaseurs can answer questions, educate, and help you leave with the products that fit your needs, Barksdale said.
Achieving that all comes down to asking about “the experience our guests want to have,” Barksdale said. “Is this for decompression? Is it for a heightened vacation or heightened day-to-day experience? Or is it more for on the wellness side for you?”
If it’s peak ski or summer season, a massive leather couch entices visitors to get comfortable.
Alexandra DeSousa, a general manager at Dalwhinnie Farms, told Insider that during peak season she might be serving 20 people with another dozen waiting their turn.
But before customers even notice cannabis, glittering glassware, sparkling jewelry, and warm cashmere distracts the visitor — an intentional design, Barksdale said.
“We purposely designed the store to not walk directly into shelves and shelves of cannabis flower,” Barksdale said.
The goal, he continued, is to attract a wide audience. An older couple might come in to peruse the candle collection and make their way to the cannabis area. Meanwhile, a young ski couple might head directly to the concentrates. Others come in for the household goods without ever glancing at the cannabis.
In one glass case, there’s a $15,000 Rolex watch. In another, a jeweled pendant priced at $91,812.
The products sold in Dalwhinnie are intentionally selected, Barksdale said.
A Rolex watch with a cannabis leaf on its face sells for $15,000 and a Duck Wine Decanter has a $150 price tag.
This is to appeal to the “traditional local and the traditional transient Aspen audience,” Barksdale said. That audience is shopping in the heart of Aspen for high-end goods that often have brand and quality recognition, one that Dalwhinnie wants to be associated with.
By filling a store with sophisticated products, the company hopes that when you hear cannabis and luxury, you think Dalwhinnie Farms, Barksdale said.
Beyond the high-end shelves is decor that fits into the theme of abundance. A mounted buffalo head towers over customers and a life-sized gold horse fills a corner.
The extravagant decor features prominently, starting with a $14,000 crystal saddle that sits front and center as a reference to Dalwhinnie’s equestrian roots. Similarly, it’s hard to miss the sparkling gold horse. A popular selfie spot, DeSousa said.
However, at the heart of Dalwhinnie Farms is its cannabis, Barksdale said.
Dalwhinnie Farms is still a dispensary and sells bud, edibles, topicals, and vaporizers to its customers.
Barksdale argues that Dalwhinnie’s organic cannabis meets a higher standard than what you’ll find at the traditional dispensary. He told Insider that the company goes through a vetting process for what strains it sells at its dispensary, and that same care goes into the cultivation, curing, and production process.
In the growing process, light, temperature, and water are closely monitored. Flowers are hand-trimmed, and a precise curation process takes place before it’s packaged and sold, Dalwhinnie said in a statement.
With everything monitored and tracked, Dalwhinnie says it can replicate the same quality of products over and over again.
In the center of the story is a colorful display case with everything from THC-infused drinks to chocolate edibles.
Currently, Dalwhinnie Farms doesn’t manufacture its own edibles, Barksdale said, but the company chooses products that align with the company’s standards.
In evaluating if something makes the shelf at Dalwhinnie Farms, Barksdale said they consider “how [the companies] attempt to bring the cleanest products to market and how they associate themselves brand-wise.”
On the counter is a row of cannabis flower grown at the company’s greenhouses in Ridgway.
The flower grown at Dalwhinnie Farms sells between $36 and $52 for an eighth, according to its website.
The boutique also sells its sister brand, Shift Genuine Cannabis, which starting price is $24 for an eighth.
Outside of flower, there’s everything from gummies to tablets to concentrates to prerolled joints.
The store’s clientele is vast.
While anyone can walk into the dispensary, Dalwhinnie offers private appointments for its “VIP clients.”
“We are frequented by what you would call influencers and VIP clientele,” he said.
Concierge desks at Aspen’s most popular five-star hotels like The Little Nell and St. Regis will help visitors schedule private appointments at Dalwhinnie.
At Dalwhinnie, the accessories like pieces, ashtrays, grinders, and lighters are beautiful enough to be decor.
The high quality extends to gold grinders, artsy matches, and beautiful bongs.
“You’ll see high-end pieces, and even our lighters, our ashtrays, and our grinders all bring that same level of, ‘Wow,'” Barksdale said. “Traditionally, people would hide these things.”
The luxury experience even extends to the bathroom.
The opulence continues to the bathroom, where there’s more gold furnishings, a gallery wall, and floor-to-ceiling marble.
Every inch of the store fits snuggly into Aspen’s luxurious, albeit expensive, reputation.
Read the original article on Insider