The craft explosion continues: 5 rising Colorado distilleries making waves in the whiskey world
Get at that high-country hooch, baby
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” – Mark Twain
Mark Twain would have liked the way things are going here in Colorado in 2019. In the wake of the craft beer explosion and cannabis tsunami that rocked this state over the last decade, a new trend in artesian intoxicants is emerging in the Centennial State: craft whiskey.
It makes sense that a place full of so much fresh water and fresh air would bear a such a bounty of badass whiskey distilleries. But the whiskey boom didn’t really start until a few years ago. And when it did, it kind of snuck up on everyone. People blinked and suddenly, there were distilleries popping up like wildflowers.
No one complained, though. And today, there are well-over 100 local whiskey distilleries scattered throughout the state, many of which are making a splash in the world of whiskey – winning awards, winning hearts and warming the bellies of whiskey lovers everywhere.
If you haven’t delved into Colorado’s world of whiskey distilleries yet (or even if you have already), and you’re looking for a few to try out, we’ve got some suggestions for you.
Photo credit: Will Brendza
10th Mountain Distillery, Gypsum
Named after the historic, Nazi-killing, Colorado-trained ski-ninjas of World War II known as the 10th Mountain Division, 10th Mountain Whisky Distillery is based in Gypsum, Colorado. But they also have a tasting room right at the base of Vail Mountain, next to the covered bridge and there aren’t enough frilly descriptors in the English language to describe the sensation of snagging an après whiskey there, after a long day of shredding. Suffice it to say: you should try it next time you’re in Vail.
All of the bottles that come out of 10th Mountain’s distillery in Gypsum are award winners: from their bourbon to their rye to their cordial and their moonshine. If you swing by you can try all of them in one fell swoop, with the house flight – just make sure you’ve got a ride lined up.
Or, if you’re at either tasting room, try one of their bangin’ mixed drinks. They use their own, in-house made mixers and you can mix and match them with different spirits.
There’s no food at 10th Mountain, but there’s always complimentary pretzels to go with your whiskey. So basically, they have everything you need.
Breckenridge Distillery, Breckenridge
We’ll start at the top (or at least with the highest.) At 9,600 feet above sea level, Breckenridge Distillery is the highest distillery in the country, and it makes some of the best whisky in the world. Which is not an exaggeration. Two years in a row Breckenridge’s PX Sherry Cask Finish has won second place in the World Whisky Awards for “Best American Blended Whiskey.”
Don’t limit yourself to that single spirit, though — Breckenridge Distillery has a lot of awesome booze to choose from: their bourbon whisky is a classic, their malt mash is a wild ride and their spiced whiskey is a hot kick in the pants.
They also make a killer vodka and several other spirits that are all as good as their whiskies are. Both Breckenridge locations also serve delicious (if expensive) food, so you can get a gourmet bite to compliment the craft spirits.
Distillery 291, Colorado Springs
If there’s any reason to go to Colorado Springs (besides the hiking and mountain biking) it’s to stop in at Distillery 291. This small batch whiskey distiller is the shining gem of that city, nestled at the base of Cheyanne Mountain. Their founder, Michael Myers (no relation to Austin Powers or Shrek) is on a mission to recreate the taste, smell and folklore of the Wild West through his spirits.
And he’s succeeding.
291 produces seven whiskey products as well as a liqueur and their rye whisky is truly something special. It was named the best rye whisky in the world in the 2018 World Whiskey Awards, which is just a testament to the quality of Myers’ spirits.
Laws Whiskey House, Denver
Just about everything you need to know about Laws Whiskey House in Denver is in their mantra: “Craft over commodity. Quality over quantity. Whiskey above all.”
Centrally located in downtown Denver, Laws takes a full-on hands-on approach to whiskey distilling. All of their product is distilled in house (at the “whiskey house”) and aged for a minimum of three years. These guys have patience. The kind of patience that makes really great whiskey.
Which is probably why their “four grain bourbon-bottled in bond” won a gold medal in the Whiskies of the World Awards in 2018.
The whiskey house is more than a just distillery — it’s a place for whiskey lovers to gather and share their joy for spirits among others who are just as passionate about them.
Wood’s High Mountain Distillery, Salida
Small batch spirits inspired by the outdoors — that’s what High Mountain Spirits is all about. And they do a damn good job of making them.
Literally born on the river, this distillery was started by brothers PT and Lee Wood, a couple of Colorado boys who loved a good bottle on the banks of the Arkansas, or the Rio Grande or even the Colorado River itself. Who knows whiskey better than a couple of high-country river rats?
Check them out in Salida, right in downtown (it’s a small town, you’ll find them). Try their spirits straight or mixed in one of their craft cocktails. You can taste the spirit of the great outdoors in the spirits of Wood’s High Mountain Distillery. Which, was exactly what they were going for.