Story by Laurel Miller.
Colorado now ranks second in the nation for the number of distilleries (50-plus in production and counting), but that’s not the only thing that inspired edibleASPEN to create our first-ever craft distillery guide this month. We’re exceptionally lucky to have one of the nation’s most acclaimed grain-to-glass spirit producers right here in the Roaring Fork Valley (that would be Woody Creek Distillers). There’s also Marble Distilling Co., and 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company, Peach Street Distillers, DRAM Apothecary, and Peak Spirits within a few hour’s drive.
I had the happy task of researching and curating the statewide guide (thanks, Lisa [Houston, publisher]!). You can find it online as well, in addition to a comprehensive listing of producing distilleries in the state on our website. Since there’s no time like the holidays to imbibe, I wanted to turn you on to my top five tasting rooms in Colorado. If “eat, drink, and be merry” is the unofficial slogan of the season, consider these distilleries good reason to plan a road trip. Alternatively, check our guide for Colorado’s best bar programs featuring regional spirits).
From all of us at edibleASPEN, Happy Holidays. Here’s small-batch in your eye.
DRAM Apothecary, Silver Plume
Why we love it: Exquisite, locally-wildcrafted bitters and cocktail syrups are vapor-distilled by owners Shae Whitney and Brady Becker. Don’t miss the excellent, old-timey cocktails, located in DRAM’s “Bread Bar,” a 19th-century former bakery in this beguiling “living ghost town.” Bonus: DRAM now has a five-room inn above their production facility up the street- it’s a great reason to have just one more drink.
Woody Creek Distillers, Basalt
Why we love it: The award-winning potato vodka and Reserve Vodkas (made respectively with Rio Grande spuds and heirloom Strobrawa potatoes from co-founder Pat Scanlan’s Woody Creek organic farm) yield white spirits with appealing viscosity and delectably smooth, subtle fruitiness. Everything is Colorado-sourced and eminently sippable, but don’t skip the excellent tasting room cocktails and flights of equally acclaimed brown spirits (hello, bacon-infused whiskey). Bonus: Green thinking, from the low-emissions facility to the beetle kill used in the tasting room.
Leopold Bros., Denver
Why we love it: Todd Leopold’s masterful distilling (brother Scott oversees operations); an attention to detail and craftsmanship, and an emphasis on sustainability, education (they offer classes), and old-school European production methods. The vast tasting room has an old-world vibe, and a museum-worthy, if small, display of distillery-related artifacts. Colorado barley from the San Luis Valley is malted on-site; peaches are from the Western Slope. The Leopold’s started distilling in Michigan and pay homage with an exemplary Cherry Whiskey and a Tart Cherry Liqueur.
Marble Distilling Company, Carbondale
Why we love it: The above-and-beyond green construction and production methods and the stunning yule marble tasting room (the same stuff used to filter the spirits). An upstairs inn that invites lingering in Carbondale, no car necessary. Crystal River water and Colorado grains make for a superlatively pure vodka; the Moonlight EXpresso liqueur is great in a toddy, and uses local Bonfire Coffee beans. Members of the private barrel club can age (and taste) their own whiskey in-house.
Peach Street Distillers, Palisade
Why we love it: The state’s first legally-made—and widely acclaimed—bourbon is augmented with Olathe corn and local grains; the end result is smooth, with hints of caramel, vanilla, oak, and spice. Fruit as local as it gets. The limited, seasonal Palisade-grown Pear-in-the-bottle Brandy while it lasts—and don’t miss the eclectic tasting room adorned with bizarre bric-a-brac if you’re passing by on I-70.
Notes Of A Dirty Old Man
Colorado’s newest distillery opened in September; White produces gin, vodka, and the state’s only aquavit, a traditional Scandinavian white spirit infused with herbs and spices. Drink it neat, well-chilled, or try this sexy little number, enhanced with Denver’s Cocktail Punk bitters.
Recipe by Ryan White, Devil’s Head Distillery
2 ounces Aquavit
¼ ounce honey Simple Syrup
3 dashes Cocktail Punk Aromatic bitters
Fill rocks glass with ice, and rim with grapefruit strip, then add as garnish.
Laurel Miller is a Basalt-based food and travel writer and cheese consultant, the co-author of Cheese for Dummies and the contributing editor at the magazine culture: the word on cheese. She persists in freelancing because it gives her more time to play outside. Find out more about Laurel at SustainableKitchen.com.