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"That's what I love about gin," he says. "There are so many different kinds and you can still call it gin."

The flavored vodka was a bigger challenge. The partners settled on honey because "it was very unique and tasted really yummy, but also because we have some cause orientation of our own," explains Lindauer. "In Colorado, we have a tough environmental situation on our hands with our bees, and they provide a pretty meaningful utility: pollination. So we thought, wouldn't it be cool in the context of building a business that is sustainable — i.e., off the grid — if we also gave back and made it count for something we're passionate about that actually moves the needle."

Not to mention that there are very few other honey vodkas on the market. The only one with a meaningful market share is 42 Below's Manuka honey vodka, which has a funkier flavor than the natural honey Spring44 was working with.

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.

Figuring out how to make a honey vodka that didn't separate in the bottle proved tricky, however, and Masters left Colorado Pure before they nailed it down.

"We really wanted to do honey, but we almost gave it up," says Lindauer. "We had a really hard time getting it to hold suspension. It's easy to go buy a flavoring, but when you're working with natural stuff, it's hard to get a finished product that looks appealing in the bottle." The ultimate solution involved creating a honey distillate.

With three products in hand, the partners were finally ready to get their products on the shelves and into the glasses of consumers. Which meant the hard work was just beginning.

But then they got a big break.

Lindauer had gotten a lot of advice from other distillers about sticking with a small distributor to start with or risk getting lost in the crowd.But that sentiment was at odds with Lindauer's views of product placement. "The name of the game in this thing is distribution," he says. "We decided to send it to the biggest distributor and see what they said."

So they sent some product off to Southern Wine & Spirits, the largest distributor in the nation, which represents major brands like Absolut, Kahlúa, Jim Beam and Beefeater. Southern doesn't often pick up new products, and it largely ignores small companies. But two days later, Lindauer, Wall and McPhie got a call to head down to Miami and talk business: The distributor was interested in Spring44.

While there, the partners learned that Southern had used its own in-house panel of experts to assess the product, and they liked what they tasted. "We walked into the office of Rudy [Ruiz], the executive vice president of spirits for the company," remembers Lindauer. "He said, 'We think you've got something here. We only elect to take on ten or so brands a year, and you're one of them.'"

"Their gin is really different," says Tracy Johnson, Southern's director of marketing and special events in Colorado. "And their honey-flavored vodka — there aren't a lot of those. Plus, their commitment to building the distillery here in Colorado was a big high priority for us bringing them on board."

But getting picked up by Southern meant that Spring44 had to scale up quickly — and that meant quickly finding a facility that could manufacture and bottle their spirits, since the distillery they planned to build in Loveland was still waiting on permits before construction could begin. When the partners couldn't find anything in Colorado that could handle the desired output, they had to go with one in Oregon.

"If you could write the script, you'd get validation and build your distillery, and you'd do it with exacting specifications," says Lindauer. "But we were caught between having the largest distributor in the U.S. saying 'Let's go' and us saying, 'Uh, okay.'"

Spring44 started hitting the shelves in May. And in another twist on the original concept, it made the biggest splashes outside of Colorado, getting picked up by California's chain of Total Beverages, premier New York liquor store Astor Wine and Spirits and, most notably, Madison Square Garden and the New York Rangers. That relationship gave the Spring44 partners the chance to do some top-down research, advertising on dasher boards and LED signs while assessing who makes up the new brand's market.

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

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A small crowd was gathered in the cramped, dark basement of SALT. Bartenders, journalists and Boulder's food-oriented Twitterati milled around, socializing and twisting cocktail glasses while SALT's staff shook drinks.

Soon Lindauer, wearing jeans and a button-down shirt, stood up and quietly told the audience his story, describing the Colorado spring that had inspired two guys who'd never been in the spirits industry to craft a vodka and gin. Participants were then invited to shake their own cocktails, chat with the partners or check out the botanicals on display that go into Spring44 gin.

A few minutes later, the crowd was led upstairs to a bigger party, where they were asked to judge a Spring44 cocktail contest in which SALT's bartenders were competing while they sampled the oysters, tuna and sliders the restaurant had crafted as pairings.

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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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