West of 105 magazine issue 1, autumn 2018

Page 68






Ryan Thompson and his 10th Mountain co-founder Christian Avignon have both had a long-standing appreciation for spirits that exemplify their class and type. They have both always been entrepreneurial, too. After monitoring the craft distillery industry, the pair eventually decided the time was right to jump in. They attended the first ever class of Moonshine University in Louisville, KY, returned to Vail, wrote a business plan and started the business. Using tried and tested techniques, they have a pretty simple aim: to produce the best products they can. Currently they produce five products: 10th Mountain Bourbon, 10th Mountain Rye, Colorado Clear Mountain Moonshine (a non-aged corn whiskey), 10th Mountain Potato Vodka, and Alpenglow Cordials (sage, peach, and vanilla). Their best seller is their bourbon while their most awarded product is their rye.





Bryan Nolt was a busy doctor and had no plans to enter into a new career, but his passion for whiskey eventually condensed into a single, eureka moment after a day fishing with a friend, an ER doctor that spent much of the day complaining about medicine. Nolt is all about quality, as all craft distillers are, and he doesn’t have time for yarns or sob stories about the process. Instead, he says, if I can’t win you over with our product, it shouldn’t be in our portfolio. Currently the company produces over two dozen spirits, some of which are only available at the distillery. Ranging from flavored vodkas to award-winning whiskeys, Breckenridge Bourbon is one of the most awarded craft bourbons around, winning the 2018 Icons of Whisky award for Brand Innovator of the Year, among others. On September 17 the company’s latest product, the Sauternes Finish Whiskey, will be released.

Michael McCardell remembers clearly when he had his spiritual epiphany. Back in the early 2000s he was introduced to craft spirits in a blind tasting and was blown away by the flavors. He thought that just as craft beer is superior to the large beer producers, craft spirits would go the same way. There wasn’t a distillery in Durango at the time and he thought the timing was perfect to start one. So he did. As for his philosophy, he is passionate about tying his products to where they are made by only using regional grains, mashing, distilling, aging, and bottling in house and then tying them to stories of Durango’s rich history. DCS currently produces approximately 2,500 cases per year (that’s expected to double in 2019) across three products: Soiled Doves Vodka, Mayday Moonshine, and Cinder Dick, their award-winning, Colorado straight bourbon whiskey.







A conversation over dinner back in 2012 about the emerging craft distilling industry eventually led to the creation of Honey House Distillery. The parent company, Honeyville, has been producing small batch, handcrafted honey products since 1918 and so it seemed kismet that the idea would blend, literally, with Honeyville Wildflower Honey. Honey is used in each of the five mainstay spirits, although they occasionally also produce limited editions. The five are: Colorado Honey Whiskey; Cinnamon Honey Whiskey; Hex Vodka, which is distilled from house-made mead; Red Cliffs Spiced Rum, a spiced rum with caramelized honey; and a cold brew coffee liqueur. Forgotten Barrel Rum, which actually got lost for a time among the other barrels, is a honey rum that was aged in a used whiskey barrel. It is limited to just 200 bottles. Honey House currently produces around 10,000 bottles and uses around 4,500 pounds of honey every year. 68




Owner Connie Baker likes to tell people she went from drugs to booze when they ask about how she got started with distilling (she previously worked in the pharmaceutical industry). With a love for vodka and a fascination with the fact you can make it out from seemingly anything, she signed up to a distilling school and the rest, as they say, is history. At MDC they focus on sustainability which includes sourcing local ingredients and water and heat reclamation through the first-of-its kind Water and Energy Thermal System (WETS). Even their grain is grown just half a mile away (spent mash is sent back there to be utilized on the farm). The Sierra Club named MDC as one of five distilleries in the world to drink at if you want to save the planet. As for best products, Baker has a tough time deciding (“they’re all my babies”) but settles eventually on Gingercello and Reserve Gingercello.



With a passion for fine spirits, Spirit Hound uses local ingredients like freshly-picked juniper berries to create spirits that evoke a sense of place. Then there is the desire to be original, perhaps that’s why the team built much of the distillation equipment themselves and why the recipes they have, while based on classic production techniques, are unique to them. The a desire to create an original and unrivaled straight Colorado malt whiskey gave birth to Spirit Hound. In addition to whiskey, Spirit Hound also produces gin, vodka, moonshine, and, somewhat unusually, sambuca. They also realized that their custom-built still could also produce an outstanding rum. So they made Mountain Bum Rum. Made with Caribbean molasses and cane sugar, it is twice distilled. Some is then bottled to make their Silver Rum and some is aged in spent whiskey barrels.


Photos: (clockwise from top left) Marble Distilling CO; Kel Thompson at Americas Production Company; Jessie Unruh; Durango Craft Spirits; Honey House Distillery; Spirit Hound Distillery;

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