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Vodka makers hope pure spring water from Colorado pushes them to the top shelf

The first sip of water creates a cold rush.

It races across your palate and down your throat, dropping to your stomach, and then seems to shoot straight out into your veins, which carry it down your arms and legs all the way to your fingertips and toes. The water tastes so pure that it makes the insides of your body feel like they might actually be sparkling.

The second sip reveals faint botanicals: Aspen root? The mineral tang of rose quartz? The elusive essence dances momentarily on the tongue, but the flavor's gone before your brain can identify it. A sniff of the pitcher that holds the water captures nothing more than the smell of the pine forest. The pitcher has been filled from a spring that bubbles unfiltered up from underground into a tube, which is covered by a two-foot-by-two-foot metal-lined box designed to keep animals out and purity in.

Russ Wall and Jeff Lindauer at the source of Spring44.
mark manger
Russ Wall and Jeff Lindauer at the source of Spring44.
Jeff Lindauer's father bought the forty-acre parcel in the Roosevelt National Forest forty years ago.
mark manger
Jeff Lindauer's father bought the forty-acre parcel in the Roosevelt National Forest forty years ago.

The third sip becomes a long gulp — because by now the water is sating some unquenchable thirst that you never knew you had. Until now.

"You've been pollinated," laughs Russ Wall, one of the founders of Spring44, a company named after that spring.

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Video: Take a video tour to the spring that started Spring44.

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Russ Wall was pollinated by Spring 44 four years ago. Jeff Lindauer, a friend since high school, wanted him to see the Buckhorn Canyon land that had been in his family for decades, a trip that involved driving up winding mountain roads, then northwest along unpaved County Road 44 to a two-and-a-half-mile-long four-wheel-drive trail so steep, narrow and studded with rocks that it took nearly an hour to navigate.

Lindauer's father, Don, had bought this forty-acre parcel from a homesteader in 1969 because he wanted a place where he could vacation with his family, a getaway from their ranch in western Nebraska. The land is in the middle of Roosevelt National Forest, a swatch of Colorado wilderness hemmed in by tall pines and aspen groves that give way to rolling meadows of grass and wildflowers, sun-drenched expanses and craggy outcroppings. As a boy, Jeff would camp here with his father, drinking straight from a shallow pool fed by a spring in the middle of the property at 9,044 feet. And even after he moved to California, where he built a career as president of a division of MCI and then held a succession of CEO roles in several technology ventures, growing the companies into sustainable businesses, he would return to the land.

In 2004, he took on the nearly impossible task of building a house near the spring, bringing in crews who camped during construction and hauling materials up that incredible trail. "Most of my contemporaries thought I'd lost it," Lindauer says. "They wanted to know why I hadn't bought a place in Tahoe."

But he was persistent, tucking his 6' 4" frame into a tent on the property for nights on end so that he could help the crew raise the walls. They milled much of the lumber on site and used the spring for water. "It was a significant engineering challenge as far as getting materials in, because all of it had to be done off-grid. We had to create our own solar ray," he recalls. "But we did it, and it's a very unique property."

The finished cabin — an A-frame with a wraparound porch and a loft — is outfitted with top-of-the-line appliances, enough mattresses to sleep six comfortably and twelve in a pinch, an Internet connection and, new this year, DirecTV. Stairs from the deck lead down to a round tub, which is filled by the spring and then heated. Don Lindauer's piece of land still feels like it's in the wilderness — but it happens to feature some pretty excellent creature comforts, too.

Wall and Lindauer were seated on the deck one night, drinking wine and cocktails, enjoying a weekend away from work and wives and families, taking in a view that includes the Mummy Range, Rocky Mountain National Park, the Continental Divide and, in the distance, the lights of Fort Collins. After a couple of drinks, Lindauer invited Wall to partake in an old father-son tradition, and the pair trekked down the hill and into the forest to drink from Spring 44.

"He was a water aficionado," says Lindauer. "I didn't even know those existed. But he goes nuts for this water and keeps saying, 'This water is incredible, it's fantastic. You've gotta do something with it, like sell bottled water.'"

Lindauer tried to remind his newly pollinated friend of the four-wheel-drive trail, which made it impossible to even think about hauling in equipment for a full-scale water operation. But Wall, who was then running a design firm in Phoenix, kept talking about that water long after the effects of the other drinks had worn off, so Lindauer decided to get the water tested.

"The first time I knew we really had something was when the lab called and asked where I got it," he says, laughing. "My dad had it tested to make sure we weren't going to get giardia or whatever, and I still remember him talking about the guy from the city who said, 'It's even better than the tap water.' It's from the ground. And it ends up being this great water."

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12 comments
pure drinking water
pure drinking water

Reverse osmosis is a phenomenon which is used to purify water. Reverse osmosis water is obtained by forcing the water from tap through small holes on the membrane. The small holes are smaller than the particles of microscopic impurities. These holes ensure that only the pure water passes through it and all the contaminants, micro organisms are left behind. Reverse osmosis water has gifted several families a healthy life.

Karen Hufnagel Hoskin
Karen Hufnagel Hoskin

Welcome to the family from Montanya Distillers of Crested Butte (formerly of Silverton). We invite you to swing by our new Distillery (up from 2,000 sq ft. to a total of 5700!) for a visit. Ultimately, I think the only way to stay in the game is to control and oversee the making of your product from start to finish, from grain (or cane in our case) to glass, and to make the spirit as close to your exceptional water source as possible. I can't imagine how you will get enough water to Oregon to meet Southern's needs, and how it will stay fresh in transition on our lovely US highways. So I hope a distillery of your own becomes a reality for you soon! Best of luck and hope to see you along the road...

Emgqabbert
Emgqabbert

Great article, I wish you guys a very successful business. Bring it to Tampa.

SG
SG

A great read about a beautiful brand in the making - I wish you fortune and health in your endeavors, gentlemen!

It's just fantastic that you've captured, and further created, lightning in a bottle by use of Mr. Lindauer's water, water far superior to Belvedere's and Grey Goose's unremarkable, RO/DI-engineered "blank canvases".

SGDenver, CO

 
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