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from each flask, labels them with the combination ratio, and sets aside the ones that appeal to him. Once he has a few dozen, he narrows them down to a handful. From those he selects the one that will become Snowflake. He also keeps on hand the previous Snowflake iterations - 2017 marks Batch #20 - so that he doesn’t recreate what has been done before. “I want to out Snowflake the last Snowflake,” he laughs. For the first few releases, Dietrich says they would put the release date on Stranahan’s Facebook page,always at 8 AM on a Saturday. He and the staff noticed those days were extra busy. Then people started waiting outside the building before they opened. “It has been extraordinary to see how it has evolved from being a very busy Saturday to people waiting for us to open the doors. It just became this event,” he says. He now makes it a point to arrive at the distillery at 3 AM on release day to greet the folks in line. “It’s important to me to come in early,”

he says. “I’ll walk the line a couple of times and thank people for coming out. I’ll shake people’s hands, talk with them, get them excited. The biggest thing is that we are all here for our mutual love of whiskey.” He says after years of practice, the staff handles the event like a well-oiled machine. About 6 AM on the day of the release, the campers pack up their tents and belongings. It’s surprising orderly; no one tries to cut in line. Once everyone is on their feet, staff members hand out silver tickets used to purchase the bottles, a limit of two per person. When tickets run out, a sidewalk sign is set down designating the end of the line. Those behind the sign are turned away, however, Dietrich says they have never had any issues with angry customers. “There’s a camaraderie of people waiting in line together. It’s very organic and natural,” he says. However, there are those that try to take advantage of the limited quantity for personal gain. Specifically, people who sell the second bottle online

afterward. “I’ll see things on Craigslist, which is illegal by the way,” he laughs. “You have to have a liquor license to sell alcohol. We sell them for $100 [a bottle]. I’ll see people selling them for $400 online before we even open. Our whole point is to keep it accessible. We could sell it for $300 [a bottle] probably and people would still buy it, but there’s something about keeping it accessible that’s really important.” Cowdin plans on returning for release No. 20 this December. Dietrich says they do hold over extra bottles of each Snowflake. While some are for posterity, most end up in the distillery’s tasting room, so those who can’t (or don’t want to) stand in line in Colorado in December, can visit the Denver distillery, take the tour or simply order a dram in the cocktail lounge.

The annual release of Stranahan’s Snowflake usually happens the first Saturday of December and is officially announced on the distillery’s social media sites about two weeks prior. Visit for more info.

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Artisan Spirit: Fall 2017  
Artisan Spirit: Fall 2017  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.