Dancing Pines Distillery was one of the first twenty licensed distilleries in Colorado, opening in Loveland and selling its first bottle in September 2010. Now, three years later, husband-and-wife team Kristian and Kimberly Naslund, and partner Chris McNay, distribute their spirits, rum in particular, in 25 states.
Kristian had been a brewer and winemaker as a hobbyist, but his interest in spirits was sparked after he traveled overseas and came across a still. "I happened to stumble into one and thought it would be neat to distill things," he says. "I didn't do any research... brought a three-liter still from Portugal back to the U.S. and started making spirits."
When he finally did do some research, though, did discovered that home distilling wasn't legal. And although he isn't "endorsing hobbyists," Kristian points out that people are doing it at home anyway, "and in a lot of ways, that's why craft brews and craft spirits have done so well." Even so, he adds, "It's important that we support the people who are fortunate to do it professionally."
The team members at Dancing Pines are certainly fortunate in their own right, growing a distillery that's rooted in one of the spirits they're most passionate about: rum.
"We started with rum -- rum from molasses. We like the way the character of molasses influences the spirit, and it was the spirit we had the most experience with," Kristian says. "A lot of encouragement came from friends and family when we produced a spirit that they thought they would buy, and that they thought it was really fantastic."
And rum has an important history here in Colorado. "Before prohibiition, there were hundreds of rum distilleries in the northeast," he explains. "After the Civil War, when people went to grain alcohol, most of the mining camps in Colorado still had rum. We thought that since Colorado was such an agricultural and mining community, we could tie our product into our heritage. Plus, we just really like rum."
So much so, in fact, that Dancing Pine makes three different varieties of it: a traditional rum, a cask rum, and a spiced rum. And all three come from the same wash and distillation.
The traditional rum -- an aromatic, full-bodied spirit -- starts with slowly fermented molasses, which is distilled twice in a handmade copper still. The cask rum goes through the same process, but is aged in charred oak barrels, resulting in a more mellow flavor. The spiced rum, a silver-medal award winner from the American Distilling Institute, is infused with with whole nutmeg, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick.
But Dancing Pines also produces a host of expertly flavored liqueurs, from chai to a black walnut bourbon liquor, as well as bourbon, gin, and brandy. "Our distillery is focused on making everything in-house, and everything we make is from whole ingredients, like freshly-grated nutmeg and real vanilla beans," he says.
They're not the sole distillery in Loveland: Spring 44 is only a few miles away. "They're great neighbors," says Kristian. "We've shared things, we hang out. Rob Masters [the head distiller of Spring 44] is president of the Distillers Guild, and I'm treasurer and secretary. He was one of the first people I met and learn the professional side of the craft from, and it's nice to have another still in town."
At Dancing Pines, Kristian is the head distiller, taking charge of all fermentation and distillation. He describes his wife Kimberly as the boss, as she runs the business and takes care of all of their barrel stock management.
"And both of our dad's are retired," says Kristian, amused. "We let them do what they want, tinker around. We try not to make them work too hard."
The Dancing Pines team is always creating new things. "Sometimes we go into production with the things we make, and sometimes it's just available in the tasting room. We're in the process of releasing an orange liqueur -- we've been working on it for about a year now -- and we're very happy to have it out. There's a brandy that we've distilled and aged here, a peach liqueur that uses fresh peaches from Palisade that we macerate for a year. There are some interesting things that are just here in the stills."
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To try them all, head to the pint-sized tasting room Wednesdays through Fridays, from 3 to 6 p.m., and Saturdays, from 1 to 7 p.m.