One of the best rums in the world is produced right here in Colorado. Montanya Distillers was notified in April that its Platino Light Rum, produced in Crested Butte, had been selected as ‘Best White Rum’ at this year’s World Rum Awards. “It’s probably the coolest award we’ve won so far,” says Karen Hoskin, CEO and co-founder of the distillery, “and it’s the highest honor you can win in that category. The gold medals are amazing for us, but best-in-class is the holy grail.”
The World Rum Awards is an annual tasting of rums by a panel of internationally renowned spirits experts in Norfolk, England. Hoskin submitted her Platino Light Rum to the panel earlier this year, where it qualified to be entered into the white rum category, alongside rums from all over the world. The competition took three months to complete: The initial qualification in took place in January, with a second round in February and the final round in March. More than 100 rums were submitted to be evaluated and tasted.
In April, Hoskin received a letter from England notifying her that her rum was the best in its category. “We should have thrown a big party right then and there,” she says of her excitement upon being recognized on an international level. “It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be validated by experts — you spend so many hours every day every week, in your bubble, just making your rum.”
All rums were tasted blind, with judges having no knowledge of which rum they were judging. Rums were rated in five categories: balance, character, complexity, quality and functionality. The top rum, Hoskin says, needed to have all five of those characteristics — and be the best in each of those categories.
Hoskin attributes the success of her rum to many things, including the Rocky Mountain water that goes into the each bottle of Platino: It's drawn from a well that extends 350 feet below Crested Butte, percolating through layers of stone and mineralized layers of rock before it reaches the surface. “We think this is where the best water source is,” she says. “Our water doesn’t have any chlorine or any other chemicals in it.” Chemicals in water will become residual flavors in any distilled spirit, she adds.
While many rums are made from molasses, Platino is made from raw unrefined sugarcane, sourced from a small farm in Louisiana. Hoskin knows the family personally. The sugarcane is non-GMO, “which is becoming more and more rare in the world,” she says. She uses only the juice from the first pressing of the sugarcane, “which is similar to extra virgin olive oil,” she adds. “It’s the most favorful part of the sugarcane. It’s really hard to get that.”
Another aspect that sets Platino apart from other white rums is that it’s aged in a barrel before bottling, unlike many rums that are aged in stainless steel tanks. Time spent in a barrel turns clear spirits brown, but Hoskin filters the aged rum through layers of coconut husks. “It pulls out the color,” she says, “but does not take out the flavor in the way the charcoal filtering can.” Bottled Platino retains the hints of oak and smoke that are introduced in the barrel-aging process.
Earning a top honor at the World Rum Awards isn’t the first time Montanya has won big acclaim. Since starting production in 2008, Montanya has won two other “Best in Class” designations including the Rum XP Competition, and six Gold medals including the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
“This is the only competition that we submitted to in 2015 so far,” Hoskin says, “and probably the only one we will submit to this year.” Hoskins enters her rums into about half of the available competitions, choosing only the most reputable ones. “Our goal is to work our way slowly up the chain of the best competitions,” she continues. This was the next logical step for us, to submit to something international, that is well respected and sets the industry standard.”
“To be elevated to the top spot among such a group of experts, and among such an exceptional group of rums is the most heartwarming feeling you can imagine,” she says.