Booze

Distiller Jake Norris Delivers the Goods -- A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon

It's Monday, October 13, and I'm sitting in a red Toyota 4Runner with Jake Norris, head distiller at Laws Whiskey House. The Toyota is idling outside the whiskey house, a new distillery in a warehouse district just off South Broadway. He's very excited because, at last, he's able to do what has taken almost three years to accomplish: sell the whiskey that he and his team designed, distilled, barreled and bottled. Norris hit the street five days ago with heavy, squarish bottles of A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon, dropping them off at liquor stores, restaurants and bars. Today we're going to do it again--paying visits, and re-visits, to friends who have reached out to him and requested whiskey. The back of Norris's truck is loaded with boxes of bottles, and there's a sense of urgency to the mission; some of his customers, who have had his whiskey for only 24 hours, are already sold out.

See Also: Ask The Bartender: Why Did Jake Norris Leave Stranahan's?

"The OK to deliver whiskey came last Thursday afternoon at about 4:30 p.m.," Norris says. He starts the truck and pulls aways from the distillery, fiddling with the volume knob on the radio. "I threw a few cases in my truck and sat in an hour of traffic. The first bar that I sold whiskey to was Swanky's, at 1938 Blake Street."

What's significant about what's happening is that not only is there a new, high-quality, Denver-based craft whiskey on the market, but that Norris is the solitary force behind getting it into glasses all over the city and beyond. Swanky's was the first bar to receive Stranahan's Colorado Distillery, another Denver-based distillery which Norris founded in 2004. He thought it was fitting that they received the first bottles of Laws. Norris is close friends with Swanky's owner Rodney Franks: "I've known him for damn near 20 years and before he was a bar owner and before I was a distiller," Norris says. "I was a barback and he was a bouncer in a nightclub and we used to go mountain biking every day together. I know his whole family."

Our first stop of the day is Divino Wine & Spirits, located just a few blocks from the distillery. On Friday, Norris stopped by with 12 bottles. Those didn't even last 24 hours. We drop off a dozen more, and hit the road, traveling North on Broadway. Our next stop will be LoHi Steakbar. We're looking for a guy named Joe; he's the booze buyer.

On the drive to LoHi, our windows are down and the autumn leaves are bursts of scarlet and gold against a cloudless blue sky. Norris tells me about his new life as a sales representative for a brand-new micro-distillery.

"This is what I do now," he says. "Obviously, my day starts early -- I make coffee, check emails, check in at the shop, order stuff. Once that's taken care of, I load up the truck and head out. At then end of the day I go home, answer more emails, check Facebook, all of that."

Norris, along with owner and managing partner Al Laws, for whom the distillery is named, opted not to use a distributor to deliver their whiskey. Instead, Norris will be the face of the company -- and the delivery guy. His main source of leads so far has been his own social media outlets; even though the whiskey has been out for five days, Laws doesn't yet have a Facebook page.

"I'm getting so many texts messages, phone calls and emails asking 'Where can I get it?' I don't really have the bandwidth to respond to them all. I figure if they're my friends and they're following me on Facebook, any place that checked in since Friday has our whiskey. I figured that would be an easy way to do it."

I jokingly refer to Norris as Santa Claus -- disseminating cherished gifts across town. He sees it differently.

"It's a lot more like making good on a promise," he says. "I have so many friends in the service industry that were really supportive of me during my time at Stranahan's. It means a lot to me to get with my friends who have been supportive and make sure they understand that I appreciate that, and get whiskey to them as soon as I can."

Keep reading for more about the first days of A.D. Laws Whiskey...

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Kevin Galaba
Contact: Kevin Galaba

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