"We've been really blessed in what we do," says Nathaniel Rateliff from a small stage at the Block Distilling Co.
during a launch party with friends and family for the Night Sweats Bourbon, which will be available to the public on Saturday, October 30. "And part of that is because of this community and the ongoing support we've had through the years. And it's only right to try to give back."
Which is exactly what the local-turned-international hit musician has been doing since starting the Marigold Project
Rateliff met Kari Nott, who had a background in fundraising, at Farm Aid in 2016. "He wanted to do something, and didn't quite have arms around what that looked like," Nott recalls. Now executive director of the Marigold Project, Nott works with Rateliff to "direct money to organizations that we care about," she says, groups with a focus on racial, social and economic justice, like the Colorado Freedom Fund
, Denver Urban Gardens
and El Centro Humanitario
, which supports day laborers.
Prior to 2020, most of the Marigold Project's fundraising was tied to live events, but when the pandemic hit, Nott and Rateliff had to look to other avenues. The Block Distilling Co., located at 2990 Larimer Street, was also re-evaluating plans last year. "The Block was really trying to figure out who we were as a brand and as individuals, and doing a lot of soul-searching," explains co-owner Kraig Weaver. "Even though we're a small company, we were trying to figure out what we could do to support our beliefs and values."
The partnership between the nonprofit and the distillery "all started with a trucker hat," Weaver says, laughing. "We found the Marigold Project from that and reached out to Kari, and she took our meeting right away."
Nott was already a fan of the Block. "I would come in here quite often," she says. "It was the quality of their drink, it was seeing Elijah's [McClain] face on the wall, it was knowing how they were growing grain, it was knowing they pay their employees a thriving wage — not just a living wage — and how they treat their employees. All of those things factored into this partnership."
The initial conversations "gradually became a cocktail in the tasting room," Weaver explains. The Marigold Sour is made with bourbon, marigold syrup, gomme honey marigold tincture, saline, lemon and egg white; a portion of all sales of the drink goes to the Marigold Project.
The Night Sweats Bourbon.
As the relationship grew, Rateliff and Night Sweats members Joseph Pope III, Patrick Meese, Luke Mossman, Mark Shusterman, Andreas Wild, Daniel Hardaway and Jeff Dazey got on board with partnering on a bourbon — especially after they tasted a bottle from the Block. In a serendipitous turn, the Block was already in the process of designing a bottle for another whiskey featuring a columbine, and was able to translate that to an eye-catching golden marigold for the Night Sweats Bourbon bottle.
The spirit itself is made from yellow, blue and red corn, as well as millet and roasted barley, 70 percent of which comes from the Block's dedicated acreage at a family farm in Missouri. "The yellow corn is going to give it that classic bourbon sweetness," Weaver explains. "The red corn's going to add a little of peppery notes and some depth and complexity, and the blue corn is going to come across almost like a sweet tortilla." The bourbon is open-top fermented and aged in American white oak barrels for a minimum of two years; it's bottled at 47.5 percent ABV.
After an auction for the first available bottles, the remaining 300 go on sale on Saturday, October 30, at noon at the Block Distilling Co., 2990 Larimer Street in RiNo. Bottles are $82 each, with a limit of two per person, and $10 from every bottle sold going directly to the Marigold Project.
The distillery is working to expand production and distribution of the spirit, and hopes to eventually offer Night Sweats Bourbon across the state. In 2022, a four-year aged version will be released.
"It shouldn't just be an obligation to give back to the community," Rateliff says, "but a pleasure and a privilege to give back to our community, and it does feel that way."