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Ask the bartender: Meet Jake Norris of Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey

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 one of the distillers that will be featured at the Colorado Cocktail Contest.

We've already profiled many of the bartenders competing in the Colorado Cocktail Project, with its mission of creating the official Colorado Cocktail. Now we're profiling 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.

In the following interview, friend Jake Norris (one of the best real country-music DJs I've ever seen) of Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey explains how he designed his first still and describes his upcoming rafting trip:

Jake Norris Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey

Distilling since: Stranahan's has been distilling since April 2004

How and when did you get into distilling?

I found a book on alternative fuel in my father's library when I was about fourteen. It had a chapter on converting an old pickup to run on alcohol and an adjoining article on how to make the alcohol. Something about it really grabbed hold of my imagination, and I sat down the next day and designed my first still.

What products do you currently offer?

Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey.

What is your favorite spirit to make? Why?

Whiskey is my favorite. Making whiskey is like baking bread: It has a few simple ingredients but takes a lifetime to master.

Any exciting things you are working on for the future?

I am going rafting this weekend.. Pretty excited about that.

What is your outlook on the Colorado distilling scene? Where is it headed and why?

I am excited for the Colorado distilling scene. I think we have a lot of passionate, skilled people really pouring their souls into their craft. I think we have a distinct advantage distilling in such a loyal state. People from Colorado love their state and want to support products and people from Colorado. If I have a choice of equivalent products and one is made in Colorado, you know where my dollar is going. The fact that we make such good spirits and beer in Colorado makes the choice that much easier...

What makes your product distinctly Colorado?

We are the first whiskey ever distilled in Colorado... legally, anyway.

You were the first on the scene. Can you tell us about the reaction you received when you first launched your brand?

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We were really overwhelmed by our reception both locally and internationally. We had anticipated a lot of resistance to a new whiskey that did not fit in the traditional categories, but we were pleasantly surprised.

How have things gone since you moved into your new building?

The new building is great! We finally have a little room to stretch out and boost production a little. We are working on laying more whiskey down to meet Colorado's growing thirst.

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