Lance and Anna Hanson moved to Hotchkiss, Colorado, from California with the original vision of planting grapes and making wine. Since they began doing that in 2001, Jack Rabbit Hill has expanded to include eighteen acres of vineyards, ten acres of hops, a loyal following of national and Colorado restaurants, an on-farm distillery and spirits division and, most recently, a Denver outpost at the Source that makes a piece of Jack Rabbit Hill's soul accessible to a larger base of people.
Other projects in the works include CapRock Bitter, a dry, full-bodied amaro. And while Peak Spirit loyalists have been clamoring for a whiskey, Lance wasn't interested until an opportunity came up that involves, of all things, breweries and brewmasters.
"Whiskey is really distilled beer. It's not finished of course, but the way you make a good whiskey mash is the same way a brewer makes a good beer," Hanson says. "We know from our hop experience that some of these brewers have been thinking about this whiskey mash issue for a while and have some really interesting ideas.
"We don't have a whiskey, and people pester us about it," he adds. "It wasn't all that interesting until this opportunity of working with breweries came up. Why reinvent the wheel? Let's work with them to create whiskeys that are really unusual."
The result is a separate enterprise called Beercraft Whiskey, but since that name didn't pass muster with the federal government, it's just B-C-W.
The white whiskey -- named after a farm dog -- was made from mash produced at the Wynkoop and then distilled at Peak Spirits, and to Hanson, this has been the perfect opportunity to feature the beer, brewery and the Peak Spirits distillery.
"These guys are outstanding brewers, and they have some really interesting ideas about the washes and mash that could make a unique whiskey," he says.
The resulting Luna White Dog provides an enlightening sip for the regular whiskey drinker. "White dogs are pretty basic; they don't have a multitude of layers in terms of taste profile," Hanson says. "We think people will be pleasantly surprised with how these showcase the quality of the beer and the mash that the whiskey is distilled from. Oak is a wonderful crutch; it's a great way to mask a distillate that is less than superb; it's a great way to dress something up. We're putting this out without the benefit of oak-aging -- showcasing the purity."
The success of this first release took its fair share of hoop-jumping, though: complications with the original label design and name, Beercraft, occurred after submission to the federal government's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which regulates the alcoholic beverage industry.
"When we submitted the label for Luna White Dog Colorado Whiskey, we were told we had to remove the word 'beer' from anywhere on the label," Hanson says. "They felt it was false and misleading advertising. And even though all whiskey starts with beer, we had to remove all references. The idea was that somebody may pick this up and think it's a bottle of beer."
Ultimately, the collaborators changed the name on the label to B-C-W, which to them still showcases the philosophy behind the original Beercraft idea. "That's our brand--we want to represent the craft between beer and whiskey," Hanson says. "It's about celebrating the beer world and the whiskey world by bringing them together."
Name reincarnations aside, the B-C-W spirits bottle showcases an immaculate label from the same Boulder-based designers who worked on the CapRock label and website, Berger & Föhr. The packaging for the next collaboration with Bull & Bush, Jane's Cut, is still under review, named after another dog on the Peak Spirits and Jack Rabbit Hill farm.
Luna White Dog can be enjoyed in a cocktail, but also stands well on its own, served neat or on ice. "They're certainly as good as eau de vie or brandy in terms of smoothness and finish, and even as far as complexity. Drink it the way you drink any other great spirit. We think this is a compelling way to explore the world of craft whiskey rather than coming up with our own mash. Let's partner. The brewers are all about their craft, we're all about ours, and it's the collaboration that allows us to produce a very interesting, unique product in the whiskey category."
To learn more about Peak Spirits and their collaborations with Wynkoop and Bull & Bush, or if you're considering a visit, check out their official website. If sticking closer to home, you can try all of their products at the CapRock Farm Bar in The Source.
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