Kraig Weaver started building the Block Distilling Co. at 2990 Larimer Street four years ago, and it was part of his plan to make whiskey even back then. The Block officially opened two years ago, the soonest Weaver could get his first batch of whiskey going; now it's finally ready — and this Sunday, December 15, you can try it.
"Every drop of our spirits is made here, which is why we didn't have whiskey yet," says Weaver. "It was important for us to do what we needed to do to make the best spirits possible."
The dream to create a whiskey started before Weaver, along with his brother, Kameron, and wife, Michelle, even secured a distillery license, but as soon as that was in hand in 2017, they made their first batch, knowing it would take two years to mature. There's even a whiskey countdown clock in the tasting room, which will turn into a bourbon countdown clock after the first batch, a four-grain whiskey, gets released at noon on Sunday. There are 700 bottles available for sale only at the distillery for $65 each, with a two bottle limit. The first 100 people to purchase one will also receive a specially designed canvas and leather bag by Clever Luck (a nearby clothing and accessories shop) in which to tote their whiskey (or any of the distillery's other square-shaped bottles).
"We aren't after volume; we're after a high-flavored whiskey," says Weaver. "Everything we do is about producing good flavor."
The new whiskey is somewhat sweet, with a full mouthfeel and notes of vanilla and tea. The labor of nerdy love began with lots of research into what the brothers wanted in a whiskey, reading old recipes, blind-tasting white whiskeys against their own un-aged version, sampling single-grain spirits and filling notebook after notebook with information. In the end they decided to do a four-grain mash of oats, rye, malted barley and red and white wheat that was open-fermented for six days before being distilled and then put in barrels.
Each batch gets aged in a new American Oak barrels with a number-three char on the staves and a medium wine toast on the head and bottom (something not typical of American whiskey). Rather than using standard whiskey barrels, the brothers selected vessels from a company that specialized in wine barrels. Weaver says the standard for wine barrels are more stringent, and each barrel gets air seasoned for three years before the whiskey goes in.
The Block's grains also have an interesting origin. Weaver says that he initially used grains that were all grown in Colorado and milled in-house. While the latter remains true, 70 percent of the grains are now grown just for the distillery on a plot of land in Missouri owned by one of the Block's investors.
"Going to the farm and seeing our rye come up is so exciting, and it's our rye, no one else's," says Weaver, adding that he had a say in the starter seed, the fertilizer and how the grain was grown. "It's a rare opportunity for this size of distillery, and it's something unique that no one can replicate."
As those grains grew, Weaver was also growing the production capacity at the distillery by six times its original output. A few months ago, the brothers leased the space next door and added two stills purchased from a defunct distillery in North Carolina (driving the stills back to Colorado in the midst of the October snowstorm), along with other equipment needed to increase production.
Head to the distillery this Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. to sample the new whiskey, which will be available in the tasting room and for sale in bottles until supplies run out. And if you miss it, Weaver says batch number two is slated for a March 2020 release. And since whiskey has been a regular part of production for the past two years, it will be a staple in the Block Distilling profile after that.