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In 2007, there were only five licensed distilleries in Colorado. In ten years, that number jumped to over 100. Shooting their farm-to-bar approach to new heights, this burgeoning Whiskey movement is a natural consequence of a unique combination of factors.
If you think about it, Colorado is the perfect place for making hooch. Its arid climate brings to the table the cool nights and warm days combo, which is great for aging Spirits. The soil is rich, and there’s a wide variety of different terrains. You’ve got your majestic Rockies with a ton of snowmelt, feeding the crystal-clear rivers – Whiskey ain’t called firewater for nothing – the endless golden fields and the eastern plains. Plus, the distilling legislation is one of the friendliest in the whole U. S. of A., which doesn’t hurt either.
And finally, Coloradans know good Whiskey can become great Whiskey if they stick together rather than riding solo. The community Spirit is strong up there, with distillers even sharing their barrels (Can you imagine?!) and focusing on local ingredients produced by their neighbors.
Now, let’s meet these Coloradan storm riders, each offering a sneak peek into a different category. 10th Mountain Bourbon is a sweet, smooth, and medium-bodied player with a corny mash bill. Locke + Co Aspen Aged Rye is a flavorful small barrel concoction aged in Aspen and bottled by sixth-generation Coloradans. And coming from the highest distillery in the world, Breckenridge Whiskey PX Cask Finish will have you tasting fig and creamy raisin, imparted by barrels that used to hold some very old Sherry.
Let yourself be taken by the hand and thrown into Colorado’s Whiskey world.
1) 10th Mountain Bourbon was named and inspired by the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division that arrived in the 1940s to train a few miles outside of Vail. Based in Camp Hale, they were later deployed to Italy's Apennines Mountains to battle the German army. (Spoiler: they won.)
2) Proud to call themselves “The World's Highest Distillery”, Breckenridge Distillery is located at an altitude of 9,600 feet.
3) The high altitudes in Colorado mean a higher angel’s share loss. Since the climate is on the dry side there, more water evaporates out of the barrel than at sea level. In other words, the Whiskey is higher in proof with a more complex flavor profile.
4) The Locke’s family roots in Colorado moonshining go back six generations. Owen Locke, one of the founders of Locke + Co distilling, has been honing his fermenting skills since he was 15.
5) Bryan Nolt founded the Breckenridge distillery in 2007 and he had to cash out his savings, his kid’s college fund and sell his house to get started. #commitment
6) If you’re ever in the area, you can discover the Colorado distilling community by exploring the Colorado Spirits Trail and visiting 61 of Colorado craft distilleries.
7) Colorado’s first microdistillery and the first legal distillery since Prohibition was Stranahan’s distillery, founded in 2004 in Denver.