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Montanya Distillers of Crested Butte, Colo

? M U R Y H W DO RA LO CO E, TT BU D TE ES CR OF RS LE IL MONTANYA DIST

CARRIE DOW WRITTEN & PHOTOGRAPHED BY

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hen the idea of opening a distillery occurred to Montanya Distillers founder and distiller Karen Hoskin, there was no question what spirit she would make. “I’ve been a rum fanatic for 27 years,” she laughs. Hoskin’s love of rum began as a young traveler in the 1980s, and like most people that age, she spent occasional evenings drinking with friends. “I had my first real rum in India in 1988,” she says. “This rum, called Old Monk, was a vestige of the British Raj Empire, an Old Navy style. It’s not the most fabulous rum, but it had some interesting qualities. That was the beginning.” As the idea of her rum distillery took shape, she made a fateful trip to Guatemala in April 2008 and hiked the highlands of Quetzaltenango to see where Ron Zacapa rums are aged. “Ron Zacapa takes their barrels up 7,000 feet,” says Hoskin recalling that journey. “I could understand that mountain water was good. But it was really that mountain tradition that cemented my philosophy that there was a huge benefit to rum being distilled and aged at elevation.” Founding Montanya in the mountains of Silverton, CO in 2008, Hoskin then moved the distillery to Crested Butte in 2011. Crested Butte’s elevation is 8,900 feet, and Hoskins

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feels the lower temperatures and oxygen levels have a greater effect on the rum inside the barrels. Unfortunately, others she talked to about distilling rum weren’t interested. “People were so convinced it wasn’t gonna’ work,” laughs the affable Hoskin. “Rum in Colorado? That’s never gonna fly!” But for Hoskin, rum just makes sense—dollars and cents. “Rum is ascending in the marketplace, especially good craft rums which are growing 30 percent,” she tells. Since opening the distillery, Hoskin says they have experienced double digit growth every year. However, with so much competition, especially from large corporate distilleries, how can Montanya compete? “Because we are very serious about rum,” she says. “There are quite a few companies making rum, but it’s usually on their way to a whiskey or in some way related to having a cash flow product. I wish I had a million dollars for every distiller who said to me, ‘Rum is much harder to make than I thought.’ They think it’s gonna’ be the easy in-between product between when they start their company and when they release their whiskey in year two. They really can’t compete with what we’re doing.”

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Artisan Spirit: Summer 2017  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.

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