Sean Kenyon knows how to pour out both drinks and advice. A third-generation bar man with almost 25 years behind the bar, he is a student of cocktail history, a United States Bartenders Guild-certified Spirits Professional and a BAR Ready graduate of the prestigious Beverage Alcohol Resource Program. You can find him here most weeks, where he'll answer your questions. But right now, he wants to introduce you to our first Colorado Cocktail Contest distillery.
We've already profiled many of the bartenders competing in the Colorado Cocktail Project, with its mission to create the official Colorado Cocktail. Now we're going to profile the Colorado distillers whose spirits will be featured at the Colorado Cocktail Contest, the culminating event of the June 26-27 Colorado Cocktail Project at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.
First up? The Boulder Distillery's Steve Viezbicke and Rob Masters, who happens to be president of the Colorado Distillers Guild, one of the sponsors of the Colorado Cocktail Project (along with the MCA, the Colorado Bartenders Guild and Westword).
Steve Viezbicke and Rob Masters Boulder Distillery
Distilling since: 2008
How and when did you get into distilling?
Steve: When I discovered the Viezbicke's family recipe in 2005.
Rob: I was working as a distiller part-time as far back as 2004, but I have been doing it full time since 2007
What products do you currently offer?
303 Vodka, 303 Whiskey, Rob's Mountain Gin.
What is your favorite spirit to make? Why?
Steve: I like the potato whiskey. After years of perfecting the vodka, I am now having a blast with a different distilling technique and the aging process.
Rob: Gin, of course. My favorite part of distilling is blending flavors. Gin is the best way to express your talent by blending the flavors of many different botanicals into one final beautiful product.
Any exciting things you are working on for the future?
Steve: We are currently working on a root beer, tonic, and soda water for the tasting room, and down the road possibly rum for the distillery.
Rob: We are working with Growing Gardens in North Boulder on an all-Boulder county gin. We are going to use herbs and other botanicals from their greenhouse and local juniper. It will be a limited release and all the proceeds from the sales will go back to Growing gardens a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating community through gardening. They have some great programs where they bring in city kids and teach them all about gardening and growing. A lot of what the gardens produce is donated to the local shelters to feed the homeless. It's a great project.
What is your outlook on the Colorado distilling scene? Where is it headed and why?
Rob: It's booming. There are now twenty distilleries in the state. When I started in this business seven years ago there were only three of us. The best part is that everyone has their own thing going. No one is making the same product. There may be a few vodkas and a few gins, but they are all so different.
Steve: What more can I say -- Rob nailed it.
What makes your product distinctly Colorado?
Steve: All of our ingredients are right here in our back yard, water, potatoes, it just makes sense. From raw goods to the shelf, produced in Boulder, that's Colorado.
Rob: Made here in Boulder using water from a spring just west of here and integrating local juniper berries and other botanicals where possible. The cocktail scene here in Colorado is booming and we think we have created a product that will work nicely in any well made cocktail.
We hear that your distilling equipment is all re-claimed. What's the story with that?
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Steve: Why buy something when you can make it? It seemed only natural to build the stills from reclaimed materials. Not all of our equipment is reclaimed, but when I do run across something, I can make it work.
You recently had the one-year anniversary of your tasting room. How have things gone?
Great! The company is growing and growing. Sales have continued to climb and we are continually increasing production. Now we have introduced two new products and the tasting room has a nice stream of loyal customers. The sky is the limit! (no pun intended)