There's something about Colorado that gives distillers in this state an advantage. The Rocky Mountain snowmelt, the locally grown grains and the arid climate are all factors that lead to distinctive spirits, especially whiskey. There are great whiskey makers all over the state, so finding a bottle at your local liquor store or tasting room is easy.
These eleven producers are making one or many whiskeys worth a pour next time you're craving a taste of the Centennial State. Be sure to call ahead before you visit, as distilleries are slowly reopening their tasting rooms after the pandemic shutdown.
The Block Distilling2990 Larimer Street
The Block's distiller and co-owner Kraig Weaver rolled out his first bourbon at the end of 2019, something so filled with anticipation that the tasting room had a countdown clock marking the time until the spirit would be mature enough to bottle and drink. Four Grain took four years to produce, Weaver explains, so plans for the bourbon began before he opened the RiNo distillery with his brother, Kameron, and his wife, Michelle. To make Four Grain, he spent years researching whiskey by reading old mash bills, blind tasting, sampling single-grain spirits all over the country and taking notes along the way. The final product combines oats, rye, malted barley and red and white wheat, all open-fermented, distilled and aged to varying degrees. Supply of the first batch is limited, but you can now expect to score bottles each year, since the bourbon is an ongoing project. Imagine in a few years being able to sip a flight of reserved bottles in the tasting room.
Boulder Spirits5311 Western Avenue, Boulder
Boulder Spirits was originally named Vapor Distillery, but despite the name change, the company still makes the same great brown spirits. In fact, the distillery has widened its range to single-malt whiskeys in various styles, including an original, a peated single malt and a single malt aged in port casks. There's also a straight bourbon. They're all aged in American oak barrels and cut with Eldorado Springs water before bottling. Overseeing the operation is owner/distiller Alastair Brogan, a native of Scotland who brought his family and a 1,000-gallon copper Forsyths still along for the ride. Pick up a bottle for around $55 and enjoy.
Breckenridge Distillery1925 Airport Road, Breckenridge
Head to the mountains for fresh air and a large selection of incredible spirits at the Breckenridge Distillery. In fact, the distillery currently offers nine different whiskeys for sale. Start with the signature high-rye bourbon, then move on to port cask-finished whiskey, high-proof bourbon and Dark Arts, an American single-malt whiskey. The first, which runs $45 a bottle, has won numerous awards and is one any bourbon lover should seek out. Along with quality, well-balanced spirits, Breckenridge Distillery has been known as the world's highest distillery since it opened in 2008.
Deerhammer Distillery321 East Main Street, Buena Vista
Since launching in 2010, Deerhammer has been dedicated to making whiskey. Owners Amy and Lenny Eckstein built their first still out of used, repurposed machinery, much of which came from an old dairy. Today Deerhammer makes three main whiskeys, including single malt, bourbon and hickory-smoked corn whiskey. The bourbon gets its flavor from Colorado-grown corn, San Luis Valley red spring wheat, cold-smoked oats and roasted barley. If you're looking to try these spirits but don't want to drive more than 100 miles to find them, try Molly's Spirits, the Proper Pour or Mondo Vino, among other metro Denver specialty shops.
Distillery 2911647 South Tejon Street, Colorado Springs
Leaving his career as a New York fashion photographer behind, Michael Myers built his first still in Colorado Springs out of copper photogravure plates. Distillery 291 has added more stills since then and won multiple awards, including one for White Dog Colorado Rye Whiskey, which is only available in Colorado. The distillery isn't new to white whiskey, and since opening in 2011, Myers has also made a version with bourbon mash. "That's my 291 fresh Colorado whiskey, and it's what I set out to take the place of vodka, rum and tequila," he explains, adding that white whiskey isn’t the easiest spirit to sell. "But when bartenders tasted it, they said, 'Wow, this is really good.'"
Beyond those, Distillery 291 is known for its superior rye, which has a round spiciness and cinnamon and toasty bread notes. Myers currently offers more than ten whiskeys (starting at $70); he says he loves experimenting with barrels, mash bills, ingredients and time, so you can expect more small-batch brown spirits at any given time.
Golden Moon Distillery412 Violet Street, Golden
Golden Moon Distillery co-owner Stephen Gould began with the idea that one day he would make whiskey, and a good amount of it. The first bottles he produced were Gun Fighter American Bourbon and Double-Cask Rye, which are still made today. But after a significant expansion of the distillery last year, Gould is turning out more.
One of the new products is Principium, distilled from malted barley grown in Colorado and nearby states. The grain is malted in Golden, and the spirit is aged in new American oak casks. There's also Golden Moon Triple, made with the same ingredients as Principium, but triple-distilled in the manner of Irish whiskey. This one is aged for about a year in new oak barrels before finishing in used oak casks. Taste them side by side to see how the differing techniques and processes result in unique spirits. The two run $69, and the Gun Fighter line is $34.