What’s the oldest active distillery in Colorado?

Pot Stills It’s a harder question to answer  than you might think.  We see the likes of Spring44 and American Harvest trying to penetrate the spirits market in Denver.  We see Todd Leopold moving his distillery from Michigan to Colorado and saying this is his end-game.  We see Peak Spirits working within the organic spirits market as one of the firsts in the States.  And we love seeing Rob Masters, from Boulder Distillery and President of Colorado Distillers Guild, play with his own hand-made still that he crafted in his workshop.  Seems like a simple enough question, and it really wasn’t ever answered after the Colorado Cocktail Project with its booze sponsors.  It wasn’t until Wagon received an email from Sarah Protzman Howlett on behalf of the Colorado Tourism Office that got us digging.

I’m still a little fuzzy on whether the oldest distillery in CO is Stranahan’s or 303 Vodka? Do you have a good source for some Colorado spirits industry history?

Come to find out, it’s a tough question to answer in a simple manner.  We’re going to reference the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau’s list of Distilled Spirits and Producers and Bottlers.  (Note: his list includes plants with an FAA Basic Permit only, and plants with an FAA Basic Permit along with an Operating Permit; it excludes plants with an operating permit only.)  This list details the Colorado distilleries from oldest to newest:

 

 

 

PERMIT NUMBER LICENSE DATE OWNER NAME OPERATING NAME CITY COUNTY
CO-S-15000  Aug 2005 PURE DISTILLERIES, LCC COLORADO SPRINGS EL PASO
CO-S-15001 Aug 2005 PEACH STREET DISTILLERS PALISADE MESA
CO-S-15002 Aug 2005 PEAK SPIRITS, LLC FREE TRADE SPIRITS HOTCHKISS DELTA
CO-S-15003 GRAND MESA DISTILLERS, LLC ECKERT DELTA
CO-S-15004 2005 MYSTIC MOUNTAIN DISTILLERY LLC LARKSPUR DOUGLAS
CO-S-15005 COLORADO GOLD DISTILLERY, LLC CEDAREDGE DELTA
CO-S-15008 SYNTAX SPIRITS, LLC GREELEY WELD
CO-S-15009 ZEPHYR SPIRITS, INC. ROUNDHOUSE SPIRITS BOULDER BOULDER
CO-S-15010 MANCOS VALLEY DISTILLERY, LLC MANCOS MONTEZUMA
CO-S-15011 MONTANYA DISTILLERS SILVERTON SAN JUAN
CO-S-15012 2008 ANN ARBOR BREWING COMPANY, L.L.C. LEOPOLD BROS. DENVER DENVER
CO-S-15013 2008 BOULDER DISTILLERY AND CLEAR SPIRIT COMPANY INC. BOULDER BOULDER
CO-S-15014 2009 DOWNSLOPE DISTILLING, INC. CENTENNIAL ARAPAHOE
CO-S-15015 DOUBLE DIAMOND DISTILLERY LLC BRECKENRIDGE SUMMIT
CO-S-15017 DANCING PINES DISTILLERY, LLC LOVELAND LARIMER
CO-S-15018 BLACK CANYON DISTILLERY, INC. LONGMONT WELD
CO-S-15019  2010 PROXIMO DISTILLERS, LLC PROXIMO DISTILLERS DENVER DENVER
CO-S-15020 SHADOW BEVERAGE GROUP, LTD LAKEWOOD JEFFERSON
CO-S-15021 291 LLC DISTILLERY 291 COLORADO SPRINGS EL PASO
CO-S-15022 GARGOYLE ENTERPRISES, INC. DENVER DENVER

 

So, you can answer this in multiple ways.

Stills

One, you can give it to Leopold Bros as they’ve been brewing beer since 1999, distilling since 2002 and then moved to Colorado in 2008.  They may be doing this the longest, legally, but the Colorado license isn’t active until 2008.

Two, you can give it to Stranahan’s because they technically started before all in 2005.  You might notice that Stranahan’s isn’t on the list. That’s due to Proximo buying them in 2010. While the name of the distillery is still Stranny’s, because Proximo took over the liquor license, does Stranahan qualify as a Colorado-owned distiller?  Technically, no, but…

Three, you can follow the technical list and give it to Pure Colorado Spirits. For these details, I turn to Rob Masters, president of the Colorado Distillers Guild:

There were two distilleries with Pure in the name 1st was “Pure Distilleries” which made Altius Vodka and was purchased by the LeVecke Corp back in 2007 and was moved to Maui.  They now make PAU Maui Vodka and operate as Haliimaile Distilling.  For some reason the TTB still has them listed with a current DSP but they have not been in operation since 2007.
Then there was “Colorado Pure Distilling” (CPD) which was started after “Pure Distilleries” was purchased. CPD was started by a former investor in the original “Pure Distilleries” company.  Then, “CPD” was purchased by Shadow Beverage Group. The brand name “Dude” has no relation to Three Olives Dude (Ironically Three Olives is owned by Proximo).  I believe “Dude” is still being produced and sold by Shadow Bev. who also makes (or made at one point) Telluride Vodka, Zebra Vodka, and a couple other off the wall vodka brands.

Four, you give it to Peach Street with big bonus points to Peak Spirits, as they started within a week of each other.  And, interestingly enough, Peak Spirits is the first organic gin to sell in the States.

Short answer?  It’s complicated.  Long answer? It’s Stranahan’s with a few asterisks.  It is the first currently operating distillery in Colorado to get its license.

What do you think?

(Thanks to Rob Masters, President of CO Distillers Guild, for his assistance.)

About Jess Hunter


Jess is a lady and a scholar. If she's not mulling over the various names of famous mustaches and their respective bitter cocktails, she's nibbling on American Craft Singles and Cantillon. Connect with her by email at jesshunter@denveroffthewagon.com.

  • http://www.bigmargaritacrawl.com Mike

    Who gives a shit? Drink what tastes good…

  • Kevin Burke

    I give a shit & I drink what tastes good.

    • Josh Rapp

      Here Here

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