Feisty Spirits was founded in 2012 by Jamie Gulden and David Monahan in the college town of Ft. Collins, Colorado, about an hour north of Denver. They may be new to the craft spirit scene but their sense of fun and innovation is boundless. Monahan is the master distiller, and with a PhD in engineering and an upbringing in Appalachia that included the making of rye spirits, he has an ideal background for this enterprise. Others in this four person operation include John Dahlgren in distilling and David and Alex Mackewich in charge of esthetics, sales and marketing.
A hybrid pot/column still with four plates is used for single distillation at Feisty. “Aphrodite” is their original 60 gallon still which produces five gallons every six hours. With demand for their tasty spirits on the rise Feisty has recently acquired “Athena,” a 650 gallon still from Moonshine Distiller.
Many don’t realize that spirits can be made from any grain, not just the big four of barley, yellow corn, wheat and rye. At Feisty they are using red, white and blue corn as well as oats and quinoa, among many other exotic grains, in their mash bills, offering an array of whiskies including bourbon, single grain whiskeys and flavored whiskies that they call nectars.
The first offering I got to taste was the Collabskey, a malt whiskey made in collaboration with Ft. Collins-based Black Bottle Brewery. This whiskey is made with BBB’s Aviation cocktail, which is a hopless beer and clocks in at 44% ABV (as do the bourbons and rye whiskies). It has chocolate on the nose and rich flavors of malt and chocolate on the palate. The six specialty roasted malts are the secret to the flavors in this whiskey. The finish is also rich and smooth, as it is on all of these fine spirits.
The 100% rye whiskey was next up – it has won double gold at the Fifty Best Ryes Competition. The nose shows grain and spice and the palate is rich with both as well. The finish has a velvety smoothness that goes on for days. Feisty gets its rye from Minnesota, and Monahan said that he prefers cold weather rye due to its having more spice than its warmer weather counterparts.
The Better Days Bourbon, meanwhile, is a four grain bourbon made up of 65% corn, 15% spelt, 15% rye and 5% barley. The spelt is used for the earthiness that it imparts. On the nose I found there is honey and spice and on the palate rich earthy grain flavors, clove and pepper spice with hints of almond. The finish is rich and creamy.
Another bourbon in the Fiesty stable is their Blue Corn Bourbon, comprised of 65% blue corn, 35% rye and 5% barley. This was the distillery’s first whiskey and it is spicy and nutty on the nose with rich nutty walnut flavors and hints of spice and crème brulee on the finish. Monahan explained as I tasted it that yellow corn has more sugar and a sharper taste, while the blue corn has less sugar and softer flavors. Red corn is more like kettle caramel corn in flavor and gives the whiskey richer flavor and a drier finish.
The rather unique 100 % Quinoa Whiskey is bottled at 45% abv and has a grainy, chili pepper nose and flavors. It is a little like gin but more refined in flavor and unique at the same time. Though it is a clear whiskey it does see a super small amount of barrel contact. Barrel rinsed if you will.
Also quite unique as the Cocoa Ginger Whiskey, coming in at 42% ABV with cocoa on the nose and flavors of cocoa and coffee with hints of ginger on the finish. Feisty gets the cocoa nibs for this whiskey from Nuance Chocolate, a shop nearby that makes its chocolate from bean to bar on the premises. It is all naturally made with no preservatives or fillers and is incredibly intense and delicious.
Rounding out the Feisty Spirits I tried was the Maple Cinnamon Flavored Whiskey, bottled at 35% ABV and hands down the best flavored whiskey this writer has ever sampled. (And I don’t normally like flavored whiskies at all.) The nose is redolent of maple syrup and pancakes. Flavors of oatmeal, pancakes, maple syrup and cinnamon play across the palate without ever being too sweet or cloying. The finish is so smooth and creamy that it makes you want more. It is dangerously delicious and begs to be poured over oatmeal! It is a perfect after dinner dessert spirit.
These fabulous spirits are only available in Colorado right now, though you can buy some of them online. The distillery also has plans for distribution in the near future, so stay tuned and stay feisty!
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...