Whiskey Reviews: Boulder Spirits American Single Malts

Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples by Boulder Spirits. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. 

It is of no surprise that world class whiskey is now coming out of Boulder, Colorado. Known for the craggy rock formations at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, University of Colorado, art galleries, restaurants and Planetarium, the city has a creative economy and community. Back in 2008, an old school brewer turned distiller by the name of Ted Palmer started Roundhouse Spirits. Experimental gins, agave spirits and liqueurs turned some heads and drew attention to the Boulder bubble.

Enter Alastair Brogan. The proclaimed ‘Chieftain’ was a jack-of-all-trades in Scotland. Part of the Scottish military and later running a fuel distribution company, Brogan moved to the United States with the second-half-of-life dream to make whiskey. Purely fortuitous, Brogan and his wife moved to Colorado in 2011 and met with Ted. Joining forces and solving a potential naming rights issue, Roundhouse Spirits became Vapor Distillery in 2015.

The distillery grew large and fast in the first two years of production. Installing a 1000 gallon Forsyth still and creating a 40 barrel brew house was the first big task. At the time, it was the largest copper pot still in Colorado. Gin production grew as whiskey was put away. As the brewhouse was being built, the distillers experimented with using mash from local breweries such as 4 Noses Brewing Company, Fate Brewing Company and Tommyknocker Brewery.

Alastair Brogan’s goal however was to create a single malt that is ‘unique to Colorado with a Scottish accent.’ According to Ryan Negley, Brand Ambassador and Sales of Boulder Spirits, the first whiskey laid down was the Boulder Spirits American Single Malt-Peated. 100% grown and malted in the UK by Simpsons Malt, it is a light peat.

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From here like their other Single Malt expressions, every step of the process is done within house. Mill, mash and a ferment of a minimum of 36 hours before distillation is a rarity within the American Single Malt industry. This is a testament to the drive of Brogan and the team over at Boulder Spirits/Vapor Distillery. This level of detail goes into their ‘barley forward Bourbon’ as well and has paid off with some awards at BTI and the San Francisco Spirits Competition in the last two years.

In 2020, Boulder Spirits is a leading member of the growing American Single Malt Commission despite that never really being the intention. ‘Alastair is out to create the best whiskey he can with this 1,000 gallon Forsyth. We’re all for creating these new flavors of distinctly American whiskey, each with our own mix of flare and secrets. Lo and behold by the time our whiskey was ready, the single malt movement is happening,’ said Ryan Negley.

So how does Boulder Spirits mature their whiskey? Well, the majority of maturation occurs with char three new American Oak barrels with little temperature control. Proofing of the whiskey is actually done with water from Eldorado Springs, a famous local canyon.

The robust whiskeys have limited distribution right now but that will undoubtedly change in the near future with new releases like their American Single Malt Port Cask and the Bottled in Bond American Single Malt gaining attention. The Port Cask is a full year finish in ex-Ruby Port barrels. Their newest release, Bottled in Bond American Single Malt, truly adheres to the TTB bottled in bond designated rules but is also a real indicator of how their American Single Malts can hold up in further years of maturation at that Colorado elevation.

Boulder Spirits American Single Malts

The Boulder Spirits American single malts (image via Boulder Spirits)

Tasting Notes: Boulder Spirits American Single Malt

Vital Stats: 92 proof (46% ABV), Scottish malted barley, aged for a minimum of 3 years in #3 New American Oak barrels, price approx. $59.95 USD – 750ml

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Appearance: Copper, tinge of ruddy red, clear edges, medium fast legs when agitated

Nose: Moss, chocolate covered cherries, forest floor

Palate: Black pepper, dark chocolate, lemon zest & almond

Finish: Green apple, metallic undertone with lastly straw and Bartlett pear

Score: 3.5/5

Tasting Notes: Boulder Spirits American Single Malt – Peated

Vital Stats: 92 proof (46% ABV), Scottish malted barley, aged for a minimum of 3 years in #3 New American Oak barrels, price approx. $59.95 USD – 750ml

Appearance: Tarnished gold to copper, bronze to the edge, wide, long legs agitated

Nose: Sheep’s wool, peach skin & perfumed smoke

Palate: Grilled nectarine, campfire with notes of vanilla and lemongrass

Finish: Flinty, green papaya, slightly metallic with hint of white pepper

Score: 3.5/5

Tasting Notes: Boulder Spirits Bottled in Bond American Single Malt

Vital Stats: 100 proof (50% ABV), Scottish malted barley, aged for a minimum of 4 years in #3 New American Oak
barrels, price approx. $75.99 USD – 750ml

Appearance: Ruddy red, light copper, golden raisin and large, slower legs when agitated

Nose: Forest floor, damp grass, apple core and undertones of orchard fruit

Palate: Bright citrus, fresh cut peppers, hazelnut & white pepper

Finish: Zested lemon, vegetal with oak overtones. Rolls back, medium finish

Score: 4/5

Tasting Notes: Boulder Spirits American Single Malt – Port Cask

Vital Stats: 92 proof (46% ABV), Scottish malted barley, aged for a minimum of 3 years in #3 New American Oak and then finished in ex-Ruby Port barrels, price approx. $75.99 USD – 750ml

Appearance: Dark amber, reddish copper, thick legs when agitated

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Nose: Apricot leather, plum, stewed apple & faint sandalwood

Palate: Stewed rhubarb, blackberries, salt & black pepper

Finish: Little heat, clove, nutmeg & red apple skin. Finishes strongly in mid palate and rolls forward. Well balanced.

Score: 4.5/5

Final Thoughts: Boulder Spirits from Vapor Distillery are surely destined to become a notable name with American Single Malt. The dedication to the craft, maturation, provenance is impressive. However we sit at a crossroads with American Single Malt.

Personally, the TTB definition of what is American Single Malt is needed. Small, well-meaning distilleries such as Vapor are susceptible of being lost without a category being reinforced and promoted. We have to reward the people and distilleries who dedicate themselves to the craft for them to survive. Boulder Spirits American Single Malts make the case.


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