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This was Spring44's Colorado market launch, done at SALT because of the restaurant's commitment to local sourcing and high-quality food and cocktails; the company has hosted similar events across the country. The team has discovered that when people taste the product, they often purchase it — validating what those early blind taste tests had suggested: Spring44 tastes better than the competitors.

Pre-launch, they'd decided there would be no mini-skirted promoters in clubs, no oddly shaped bottles and no paying to place Spring44 in the hands of celebrities. In fact, the partners pulled out of negotiations with a major talent-management group that had promised celebrity endorsements in exchange for a substantial piece of the company. "It just didn't feel right for the brand," says Lindauer.

Instead, the spring is the star of the show. Even the labels on the three bottles show elements of the natural world that inspired – and feeds – this project. "Everyone's yelling so loud to get your attention. We chose to whisper," says Wall.

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.

They know they can't whisper Spring44's story to everyone, so they've engaged the bartending community, pollinating top spirits professionals with the story of the spring so that they, in turn, can pollinate consumers. To do that here, they looked for a leader in Colorado's cocktail scene, eventually asking Sean Kenyon to come on as a brand ambassador. The Spring44 story alone was enough to make him sign on to help with the launch, before he'd ever tasted the spirit.

"I put my faith in the story," says Kenyon. "That's not how I normally do things."

And as a result, the bartender's first tasting of the line was momentous. Kenyon started with the gin, lining up the glasses and bottles the way he always does and pacing with a mouthful of spirit. After a sip, he says, "I raised my arms in the air. I really liked it."

The gin is excellent because it's an exemplar of the new-world style while still exhibiting good juniper characteristics, he explains. And he likes the vodka because it's got spiciness and complexity. "This vodka is easy to enhance in cocktails," he says. "It has depth." But Kenyon was most surprised by the honey. "I was worried about the honey," he confesses. "I've never been opposed to flavored vodka as long as it's a quality product; I use it like a gin in cocktails. But I thought the honey might be too sweet. It wasn't. My mind started racing. It was the spirit I was most excited about in the end because it gave me so many ideas for cocktails, and it's a good opening into the lineup because it's so approachable."

Kenyon is playing a key role in crafting Spring44 cocktails. Perhaps more important, he visits bars carrying the products and tells the bartenders the story. That's been helpful in diffusing criticism, since some bartenders have questioned the company's commitment to Colorado since the spirits aren't being made in the state.

Kenyon dismisses that concern outright. "It's Colorado-owned, Colorado-sourced and it will be Colorado-made," he says. "They're bringing the distillery here."

The first bottles should be coming off the line in Colorado in November, Lindauer says, just seven months after Spring 44 first hit shelves. But he thinks the state where the spirits are made is less important than the country, which is the definitely the U.S.A. "We're very Colorado-centric, aka American-centric," he says. "I hope the guy in L.A., New York or Miami says, 'I'm going to get this product because it's a high-quality American product.'"

******

Wall, Lindauer and McPhie are sitting on the deck above the real Spring 44. It's one of the hottest days of the summer, but up at 9,044 feet, the temperature is a perfect 68 degrees. Three hours earlier, they'd been in the Loveland warehouse space that, in a few short months, will be a fully functioning distillery run entirely on solar power. There they'd backed an F-250 pickup — which they'd dubbed Tinkerbell — through the garage door and onto the cement floor. Wall and McPhie had hoisted an empty, 450-gallon water tank onto the back of Tinkerbell, then secured the tank to the truck bed. That job done, McPhie brandished a muddy shoe. The three men may be on the road to owning a major national spirits brand, but yesterday McPhie was up on the property, digging a hole for a cistern that will allow them to store more water on site.

The partners can filter and store 10,000 gallons — enough for 100,000 bottles of booze — at a nearby facility in Loveland, but the only way to get the water from the source to those tanks is to bring it down the hill on Tinkerbell, 450 gallons at a time. McPhie plans to increase the efficiency of the operation with a bladder he's designing, which will bump up the amount of water they can load to 800 gallons. But that's as high as they can go without risking sending Tinkerbell, which is outfitted with special suspension and gears, skittering down a rock face into wreckage.

With Tinkerbell now loaded for the trip back, the partners look over the property and talk about the future. Should they do a holiday promotional package that incorporates beetle-kill wood and use the proceeds to fund their beehive cause or another local project? Should they bottle some Spring 44 water for sales reps to give to bartenders, so they can experience the source firsthand? They already have a lot on their plate. They hope to roll out another flavored vodka with a uniquely Colorado ingredient, and they're talking about doing a more London dry-style gin. There's also the distillery to finish, and more markets to launch.

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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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