Peach Street Distillers first fired up the stills in Palisade in 2004, a project from Rory Donovan and Ska Brewing co-founders Dave Thibodeau and Bill Graham. Since then, the company has grown steadily from a risk-it-all bootstrapped operation into a well-known local craft brand.
And the hard work just paid off in a big way: In addition to netting four medals for individual spirits at the American Distilling Institute competition this week, Peach Street Distillers was named the Distillery of the Year.
"This is probably the coolest thing that's happened to us since we opened," says Thibodeau, who is also the marketing director at Peach Street. "Basically, craft distilling has just exploded in the last few years on the heels of the wine industry and craft beer industry. The American Distilling Institute formed in 2003 because it was obvious that this was taking place, and they hold this annual conference -- it's the only thing of its kind, and it's the only big competition for artisan distillers."
The competition, he explains, is themed, and it only focuses on a handful of spirits every year. This year's entrants, for instance, showcased whiskey, rum and brandy. Peach Street nabbed a gold medal for its peach brandy, a silver medal for the pear brandy, a bronze for the Colorado Straight Bourbon -- which was just released statewide last year -- and a bronze for the Jack and Jenny peach eau de vie.
But as for scoring the grand prize -- which is called the bubble cup after a part of the still -- Thibodeau says, "The medals are part of it, but there's more to it, too."
Judging director Drew Faulkner cast more light on the win in a statement: "The Bubble Cup Award for Distillery of the Year is given every year to a distillery that personifies excellence in artisan distilling -- fantastic product, beautiful packaging, and devotion to the craft." Moreover, he added, "Peach Street has entered a select group of distilleries that you could count on the fingers of one hand. In deciding the Bubble Cup we look for a distillery personifies the artisan distillery movement -- commitment to excellence in creativity and quality. The word passion has been overused in recent years but I can't think of a better word to describe to Peach Street. In founding Peach Street, Rory truly risked everything to the point of sleeping at the distillery, devoting his life to it in a way that mere mortals are not generally capable. Rory is the antithesis of a stuffed shirt."
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Thibodeau adds that this gave credence to the bootstrapping the operation. "For Rory and head distiller Davy Lindig, the awards justify their risk-it-all approach to starting the business, and their complete devotion to the craft."
With this win under its belt, Thibodeau says Peach Street is looking forward to the future, part of which includes expanding the property. "When we started the distillery back in 2004, we rented a little building from a builder in Palisade that didn't even have it's own address," he explains. "It was part of a fruit-packing area up there, and we cleaned it up and built it up. Over the past few years, we've expanded and built a few more buildings. Now, we're buying the building that the distillery is in and the rackhouse and the winery right next to us. We're doing a cool little courtyard and making it all our own space. We're building a cool little distillery village up there."
And that will allow them to continue to grow products like Colorado Straight Bourbon -- Colorado's first bourbon -- which Thibodeau says "is getting a pretty big following."