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Meet Lance Hanson of Peak Spirits

The Colorado Cocktail Project, with its mission to create the official Colorado Cocktail, will celebrate this state's most liquid assets at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 1485 Delgany, on Sunday and Monday, June 26-27. We've already profiled many of the bartenders who've submitted recipes for the contest; the ten finalists will pour out their hearts -- and drinks -- in a head-to-head competition on June 27.

The day before, Colorado distillers will be at the MCA to pour the products that inspired many of the drinks, while learned lecturers talk about cocktail culture.

Meet Lance Hanson of Peak Spirits:

Lance Hanson Peak Spirits

Distilling since: August 2005

How and when did you get into distilling?

We'd moved to our farm in 2001 to grow grapes and make wine under the Jack Rabbit Hill label. From our backgrounds as wine growers, we saw an opportunity to turn our valley's great orchard fruit -- peaches, pears, cherries and apples, as well as grapes -- into world-class brandies. So we installed a pot-still in late August 2005, and started off making fruit brandies. In 2008, we added CapRock Gin and Vodka to our offerings.

What products do you currently offer?

Peak Spirits Brandies, CapRock Gin and Vodka, MEll Vodka

Any exciting things you are working on for the future?

Aperitif wine, vermouth and amaro.

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

Of course, it all depends on how the consumer market continues to develop, and to what extent restaurants and stores will embrace craft spirits on a large scale, the way they have craft beers and craft wines. We think Colorado has a great consumer base looking for unique, authentically artisan foods and beverages. This is the market segment that offers Peak Spirits the most upside.

What makes your product distinctly Colorado?

They're all cut with CapRock spring water, a very "distinctly Colorado" feature. Locally grown, organic fruit also helps.

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You started in the wine industry. Can you provide any insight into the differences and similarities of the two industries?

The spirits industry is still dominated by what we call "SIC," the spirits industrial complex: a handful of big global "brands" keeping their customers captive with big cash incentives and marketing budgets, and big government-regulated distribution companies, all jealously guarded by big government lobbies. SIC is showing cracks in its foundation, however, as more and more consumers discover and demand the superior taste experience of craft spirits. We're very optimistic that the spirits industry will eventually evolve into something more like the wine industry, where consumers have much easier access to the most interesting products (always made by small producers) at a lower cost (e.g., direct-to-consumer sales in the wine industry versus the three-tier distribution model in the spirits industry).

Thirsting to know more? You can buy tickets to the Colorado Cocktail Project, which are $40 per day or $70 for the two-day package, here: Colorado Cocktail Project tickets. (Tickets are also available at select Whole Foods outlets.) The Colorado Cocktail Project is sponsored by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, the Colorado Distillers Guild, the Colorado Bartenders Guild, Whole Foods and Westword.

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