In the past decade, Jake Norris has become practically synonymous with whiskey in the Denver food and beverage scene. The founding distiller for two well-known names in whiskey, Norris has decided to take a step in his own direction and part ways with his current distillery, Laws Whiskey House, makers of A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon and Secale Rye, among others. With exciting plans for the future, Norris gave us a few hints as to what’s in the immediate future as well as further down the road.
In 2004, Norris was a partner and the founding distiller for a little whiskey start-up called Stranahan's, one of Colorado's oldest operating distilleries. He stayed with the company and helped it grow until 2010, when the distillery was sold to Proximo Spirits (Jose Cuervo). After that, he caught the attention of Al Laws, who brought him on to help start Laws Whiskey. Starting production in 2012 and launching 2014, Norris’s role with Laws has evolved from founding distiller to marketing and director of sales. While both distilleries have been great experiences, Norris says he’s excited to start something of his own.
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Naturally, opening his own distillery seems like the logical move for Mr. Whiskey. But Norris says that’s a few years down the road. He wants to keep distilling, but the immediate future will involve a passion project. A man of many hobbies, the distiller also dabbles in Asian cooking and is part of the Ramen Mafia (which throws pop-up ramen parties), has a collection of his art going on exhibit at TRVE Brewery starting August 5, and occasionally enters BBQ competitions. With so many interests, where else could he possibly spread his passion? Norris chuckles and says, “I’m working on a location right now, but I’ll be making some moves pretty quickly and then will disclose what I’ve got up my sleeve.”
While the move from Laws, effective as of September, is sad for both sides, they are positive about the separation and excited for the future. Norris speaks fondly of his experience at the distillery and of his team there. And for his part, Al Laws adds “It’s bittersweet on both sides, definitely, and we really appreciate how much he’s done for us, but we are a mutual support for what he does next, and I think that there is a lot of opportunity for Jake in Denver right now.”
Norris says he’ll be a phone call away and happy to help out if Laws needs him. He’ll be doing a little consulting while getting his new project up and running — and of course, he’ll be drinking some whiskey.