Deerhammer Distilling Company partners with a local winery for a holiday brandy
Lenny and Amy Eckstein in the Deerhammer tasting room.
Deerhammer Distilling Company, a whiskey distillery located in Buena Vista, is spreading some holiday cheer with its limited-edition Buena Vista Brandy. The holiday drink was made in conjunction with Vino Salida and distilled in Colorado with all local ingredients. Only one barrel was made, and the bottles are now on sale for the holiday season.
Last year, Lenny Eckstein, owner and head distiller of Deerhammer, got a call from Vino Salida winemaker Steve Flynn. "He was looking to find someone to distill some wine that he could use to add into another wine, to make a fortified wine, sort of like a port," Eckstein says. "Steve had all this wine, so we came to the agreement that I would distill all of it and give him half for his fortified wine and I would take half."
Eckstein decided to make brandy with his half of the distilled wine. "I aged it in a French oak barrel for just under a year and then finished it off in a whiskey barrel to give it a little extra character," he says. "This is truly a proud Colorado product." Flynn used all local ingredients for his wine, too, which was then distilled locally as well.
While some people shy away from harsher liquors like whiskey, Eckstein says that the brandy should be less intimidating. "It's freakin' delicious," he adds. "It's 80 proof, it's got a lot of complexity, but it's really approachable. It's got a really cool wine character to it. For somebody who's a wine drinker, it's a good crossover, because you can pick up on the notes of the wine without being blown away with all this harshness."
Only 362 bottles of Buena Vista Brandy were made, and Deerhammer has sold about 20 percent of it. It's available for purchase at the Deerhammer tasting room for $25 a bottle.
The distillery will be part of Buena Vista's Fourth Annual Holiday Art Walk, December 12 through December 14. "We were actually distilling this brandy during last year's Art Walk, and we weren't allowed to sell anything at that point, so we just had people in sampling it, and it was a great event," Eckstein says. "Everybody comes out, bundles up, and it's a fun time to see some art." This year, the distillery will be displaying photography by Joshua Marowitz.
Eckstein thinks it's unlikely that the distillery will make the brandy again for next year's holiday season. "It's kind of tricky," he says. "I don't know that Steve will have wine available that they'll want to distill again. If we can find a way to secure some Colorado wine, we would do so."
But Deerhammer does have more releases coming up. On December 3, it will release the first barrel of its single-malt whiskey. The rest of the batch will be ready for bottling and sale next spring.
And for those who can't handle the brandy straight, keep reading for Eckstein's eggnog recipe:
Yield: 12-16 servings
6 large eggs plus 2 yolks
½ cup, plus 2 TBSP sugar
¼ tsp salt
4 cups whole milk
½ cups Buena Vista Brandy
1 tbsp vanilla extract
½ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
Additional grated nutmeg for garnish
Directions: Combine eggs, egg yolks, sugar and salt in heavy 3- or 4-quart pot, whisking until well combined. Continue whisking while pouring milk in a slow, steady stream until completely incorporated. Turn on burner to lowest possible heat setting. Place pot on burner and stir mixture continuously until an instant-read thermometer reaches 160 degrees F. and the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Be patient. This should take about 25 to 30 minutes.
Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a large bowl to remove any small, cooked bits of egg. Add Buena Vista Brandy and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Pour into a glass pitcher, decanter or container, and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Refrigerate this egg custard mixture to chill at least 4 hours or up to 3 days before finishing.
When ready to serve, pour heavy cream into a bowl and whip until it forms soft peaks. Fold whipped cream into cold custard mixture until combined. Serve in chilled cups or glasses and garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg.
For more information on Deerhammer, including a list of liquor stores that carry some of its products, visit its website.
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