Master distiller Rob Masters spent over a decade mainly making gin, but now he's applying his spirits expertise to whiskey. His newest effort, Atticus Jones Colorado Straight Rye Whiskey, will premiere at the Family Jones distillery on Tuesday, October 15.
"What I love about making whiskey is we have all these different factors that go into it, and you have to make decisions along the way," says Masters, adding that it all starts with the grain. "Someone could do their whiskey all the same way as yours but use a different grain, and it would be totally different due to what the grain is and how it was grown."
The grains that Masters uses in Atticus Jones come from Colorado farmers and companies he makes a point of meeting, including Colorado Stock and Grain, Root Shoot Malting and the Whiskey Sisters Supply. This grain-to-glass connection is something he hopes to always maintain, especially with the rye and, coming in spring 2020, a bourbon he has already dubbed Ella Jones.
"I love to say we have shook the hand of every farmer who has grown our grains, and I want to continue in this way," the distiller adds.
So how do Colorado grains become Family Jones whiskey? After fermenting, mashing and straining the grains, the resulting concoction is distilled and put into 53-gallon, number-three char (that's about mid-range on the charring scale), Missouri white-oak barrels built by Independent Stave Company. The booze marinates in those containers for about 28 months at the Family Jones's Loveland distillery (which has more capacity than the LoHi location). Of those casks, eleven have made their way into approximately 2,600 bottles of rye whiskey.
With numbers like that, you will want to get one of the $55 bottles as soon as possible. Already, 70 percent of the production is promised to local restaurants and bars, as well as the Family Jones Spirit House (at 3245 Osage Street) and the Loveland distillery's tasting room (at 1527 Taurus Court). That leaves around 700 bottles for consumers to purchase, and there won't be any more until next fall's release. Because the process takes so long, this is the Family Jones's first housemade whiskey; before Atticus Jones, the distillery outsourced its whiskey and sold it as Stopgap Jones.
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The name of the rye comes from the beloved father character, Atticus Finch, in Harper Lee's classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Like Finch, this rye possesses a steadfast nature, both strong and slightly sweet, with a spicy, keep-you-on-your-toes nuance. It's good both neat at the bar or mixed with a family of flavors while sharing cocktails with friends.
"Distilling is science and art, and I love it," says Masters, who experiments with all sorts of flavors, liquors and methods, such as aging gin in a sour-beer barrel and infusing neutral spirits with oddities like crawfish, pork and lemongrass (don't worry, there's no meat in your whiskey).
"You can know the science and make a fine, boring product, but you have to know the art to make it unique," he adds.
Find out what makes Atticus Jones a special spirit and try this tasty tipple when it comes out on October 15, or head to the spirit house on Saturday, October 12, from 12 to 3 p.m. for nibbles, $5 cocktails, live music and a chance to get a bottle of Atticus Jones for your own liquor cabinet.