Proximo Spirits, a New York-based liquor distributor that made a name for itself by buying or investing in such niche brands as Hangar 1 vodka, Kraken Black Spiced Rum and 1800 Tequila, is in the process of buying Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey.
An executive with Proximo, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal is not yet done, says his firm will become the majority owner of Stranahan's and help the Denver whiskey maker significantly ramp up production of its signature liquid. But he doesn't want the public or Stranahan's fans to see the company as having sold out.
"We have no intention of changing anything," the executive say, adding that co-founder and owner Jess Graber and head distiller Jake Norris will "keep doing what they are doing."
"They will stay in Colorado and they will stay where they are. We just want to make what they've done bigger, and we know a lot about building brands," he adds. The family-run conglomerate that owns Proximo also owns the Cuervo tequila brand.
Both Graber and Norris have declined to comment.
The investment will help Stranahan's purchase barrels and distillery equipment and fill out the huge, former brewery building the distiller bought for $3 million in May 2009 at 200 South Kalamath Street, after having been located in the Ballpark neighborhood since 2004. At the time of the purchase, Graber said that production could increase from six to eighteen barrels per day at the new space.
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Stranahan's whiskey "is not like anything else. It doesn't taste like bourbon or single malt," the executive says. "It's a real Colorado thing. It is real, and having a real story is amazing."
Eventually, he adds, it will be an iconic brand.
Stranahan's was created by 2004 by Graber and well-known Aspen businessman George Stranahan, and the smooth, carefully-crafted whiskey immediately garnered attention both locally and nationally, with hand-labeled bottles selling for $60 or more a pop.
Mayor John Hickenlooper was on hand when Stranahan's corked its 1,000th barrel in April 2009; by then, the micro-distillery had produced 5,280 barrels of whiskey.