Colorado Distilleries Are Taking the Drinking World by Storm

Colorado Distilleries Are Taking the Drinking World by Storm

Colorado has become the epicenter for craft distillers offering handcrafted rums, vodkas, whiskeys, eau de vie, gins and liqueurs. Many of these incorporate farm-fresh ingredients, practice sustainable farming methods and use unique bottling methods.

We talked to P.T. Wood, owner of Wood’s High Mountain Distillery in Salida, CO and president of the Colorado Distillers Guild, to find out about the future of distilleries in Colorado and why you should keep an eye on them.

Q: Any reason Colorado seems to be so popular as the seat for these distilleries?

P.T. Wood: There are a number of reasons Colorado works well for distillers: a wealth of fresh local ingredients from grains to fruit, the rich craft beer culture that has taught the retailers and consumers to be more adventurous and try new things.

The regulatory environment in Colorado is also very easy to work within — from self-distribution to distilleries being able to have two tasting rooms where we can sell bottles and cocktails made with our spirits. Probably one of the most important regulatory aspects is Colorado only allowing retailers to have one outlet, which prevents chains from monopolizing the market and encourages a thriving independent retail environment. The ultimate result is that it is much easier for a small producer to bring product to market.

Q: Can you tell our readers a bit about distilleries in Colorado incorporating farm-fresh ingredients? Why do you think the move towards fresh ingredients has grown so much?

PTW: We have a wealth of fresh local ingredients, from a variety of fruits, grapes and corn grown on the western slope to potatoes, barley, wheat, rye and beets from the San Luis valley and eastern Colorado.

Leopold Brothers in Denver have their own malting floor, where they malt their barley and other grains for their whiskeys. Peach Street distillery in Palisade makes a beautiful peach brandy with peaches from the orchards surrounding their distillery. Woody Creek Distillery in Woody Creek Colorado makes vodka with estate grown potatoes.

We make an Elderflower Liqueur with brandy distilled from Colorado grapes, elderflower and local honey. Virtually every distillery in the state has a similar story. Fresh local ingredients make a better product.

Q: How is the distillery movement growing compared to the craft beer movement, for example? Are more “small-size” distillers already a popular thing or is the process too complex for most people to start a small distillery?

PTW: The distilling business is growing fast. Colorado is at 70 plus distilleries, up from about 25 just two years ago. It is a much more difficult business model than either brewing or wine making but certainly can be just as rewarding.

Diana Bocco is a writer and author who writes for Yahoo!, the Discovery Channel website, Marie Claire, Poplar Mechanics, and more. You can find more about her work on her website dianabocco.com.

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