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Colorado Whiskey Drives State’s Craft Distillery Scene

If you like to drink and you haven’t been to Colorado, what are you waiting for?! The Centennial State is home to over 50 distilleries, 300 plus breweries and a fair number of wineries. It is also home to Modern Drunkard, a bi-monthly periodical promoting the “functional alcoholic’s” lifestyle. Published by Frank Kelly Rich, Modern Drunkard is hilariously entertaining and informative. Every serious drinker should own the book; Modern Drunkard, a handbook for drinking in the 21st century.

So, hold on, this is a whiskey blog…what makes Colorado whiskey so special in the craft whiskey movement? With over 50 craft distilleries it is certainly up and coming in the domestic craft spirits department. The high quality of the water from the Rocky Mountains and locally sourced grains contribute to the fine quality of the spirits made here.

Innovation is another factor that sets Colorado apart. Stranahan’s was the first legal distillery in Colorado since Prohibition and the first to make whiskey with 100 percent malted barley (like single malt Scotch) in the United States. Stranahan’s has a cult following all over the country and many consider it to be one of the best American whiskies.

Laws Whiskey House barrels
Some of the future whiskey from the folks at Laws Whiskey House. (image copyright The Whiskey Wash/Lisa Graziano)

A.D. Laws Whiskey, meanwhile, was formed more recently when former Stranahan’s distiller Jake Norris left there because of it being sold to marketing giant Proximo Spirits. Laws makes a four grain bourbon of amazing richness, elegance and quality that we’ve been hearing has been flying off store shelves all around Denver, where they are located.

Feisty Spirits in Ft. Collins, Colorado, is making wonderful whiskies of all kinds and aging them in unique barrels from Black Swan in Minnesota. They make a delectable rye whiskey, a red corn and oat bourbon that has the creamiest of finishes and a Hop Schnapps that won silver and best of category from the American Distilling Institute. Not to mention the fabulously delicious Cocoa Ginger Whiskey, Quinoa Whiskey, Four Grain Bourbon using corn, spelt, rye and barley and the Maple Cinnamon Whiskey which is suitable for any meal of the day!

While David Monahan, head distiller at Feisty Spirits, is the mad scientist of spirit experimentation, Leopold Brothers are the rocket scientists of spirit making. It is mind blowing that they employ only nine people while making some of the best loved and highest rated spirits in the country. All the while striving to have a zero waste and fully sustainable operation. Oh, and they produce 21 products! All of which are excellent. Just try the Maryland Rye Whiskey or the Absinthe Verte. Both are outstanding.

Leopold Bros. distillery equipment
Some of the Leopold Bros. distillery equipment. (image copyright The Whiskey Wash/Lisa Graziano)

Peach Street Distillery, located in Palisade, Colorado, is another distillery in the state that merits mention. Established in 2005 they are located in the heart of Colorado wine country. They are famous for their excellent vodka and the Jackalope Gin but also make a wonderful bourbon. Truly a craft distillery, Peach St. is a tiny operation and makes all of their spirits from grain to bottle on premises.

Another award winning Colorado spirit is Breckenridge Bourbon. Located in the ski town of Breckenridge they are fast gaining popularity and prizes for their two to three year old bourbon. Using corn, green rye and unmalted barley it has flavors of caramel and cinnamon and a nice balance. It is an excellent bourbon for the money at about $40.

So, to sum up: Colorado, so many great drinks, so little time! Great whiskies abound and the scenery is amazing as well. Not to mention that there are over 300 days of sunshine here, more than they see in L.A.! As I said…what are you waiting for?!

Lisa Graziano CSW, CSS

Lisa Graziano grew up with a German father and Irish-American mother in Los Angeles, California. An education in beer, wine and spirits came with this upbringing. She has pursued the study of wine and spirits seriously for the past eight years, earning both Certified Specialist of Wine and Spirits from the Society of Wine Educators, and is the first of six people to earn the Certified Spirits Educator credential from the SWE. She currently works as a retail hand seller for Gallo Fine Wines. Her current passion is craft spirits and educating people about them.

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