The 1st Annual Colorado Distiller’s Festival will be held on September 18. As part of the roll-out, we will be interviewing the participating CO distillers to feature leading up to the event.
Today, we’re featuring Distillery 291 in our sit-down with Michael Myers.
Name of Distillery
You and your distillery
Where did you grow up?
I split my time between my parents homes – my school year was spent at my father’s house in Alpharetta, Georgia & I spent my summers with my mother in Los Angeles. It was a great clash of cultures, experiences. I believe it gave me a better sense of the life and a richer palette to draw from artistically.
How old were you when you had your first drink of a spirit? What was the story behind it?
16th birthday… it was tradition in our family to have a very nice dinner out with our parents and a glass of wine on your 16th birthday.
What’s your favorite cocktail?
What cocktail best showcases your distilled spirit, if applicable?
Distillery 291 traditional whiskeys should be neat and our 291 Fresh Colorado Whiskey makes a great Whiskarita (My version of the traditional Margarita).
What food pairs well with your spirit, if at all?
Dry Aged Porterhouse steak, Pommes frites and a fresh homemade Caesar salad is the perfect meal to a match with my Whiskey.
Why are you Colorado-based? If you moved to Colorado to start your distilleries, why?
911, I will explain below…
How long have you been distilling?
Now, how long have you really been distilling? (By that, how did you get into it?)
Well here is my story… I have spent the past 15 years living in New York City working as a fashion/beauty photographer. I made my living shooting for publications and companies such as GQ, Men’s Health, Forbes Life Style, Allure, Tiffany & Co. Estee Lauder, Chaps Ralph Lauren, etc.… About eleven years ago, I had a thought that it would be amazing to open a distillery in Manhattan making Manhattan whiskey… but, my photography was doing very well and I had small children so I did not much time on my hands to follow that dream. Then to add to it, September 11th happened and it personally affected my family, our home and life as we knew it…and that is when things changed. We came to Colorado to stay with my in-laws while for the 2001 year and fell in love with the environment, the life-style and way of life. I moved my family here permanently in 2004 while I commuted to NYC for my photography work. About a year ago, while I was in this mode of contemplating a good reason to live and stay in Colorado, I read an article in the NY Times about a Creative Director who had developed a liquor. I was fascinated by the story and said to myself that I could do the same. The next day I made an appointment with Mike Bristol (who was already a friend.) He said get your license! And the rest is my short history!
How did your distillery get its name?
In my first semester as a photo major at Savannah College of Art & Design, I learned Gallery 291 was the photo gallery opened by photographer Alfred Stieglitz in 1910(?), serendipitously; my dorm room number was 291. I still have the key. Also when I decided to fabricate my still, I found the copper I need in some of my old photogravure plates. The plates etched was a bonus to add smoothness to my whiskey.
Your distillation process
What’s a fond memory you have of distilling? Please as many details as you’d like.
As I embark on this distilling journey, I can only imagine my memories are yet to come…I am excited and look forward to what lies ahead for me, my distillery and the products I will create… With the stories I have from my photography I can only imagine the stories to come as a distiller!
Where do you get the ingredients for your distillate?
I get my ingredients from many different suppliers and hope to source from local suppliers as much as possible.
How do you make your neutral grain spirit?
What’s your favorite spirit to make and why?
Whiskey, because there’s nothing better
Do you filter? If so, why?
I filter for particulates…
What’s your philosophy on heads and tails removal?
Best tasting whiskey wins.
What do you listen to while you brew/filter/distill?
Besides the hum of the Wolf fan above my head, I love to listen to the Blues… they give me a sense of history, they provide a sensibility that touches my soul…. The Blues provide a soulful inspiration to my work.
Tell us about your still. Is it a column or pot still? Does it have a name?
My still has a great story… it is a melding, so to speak, of my past and present. I took seven copper photogravure plates that I used to print some fine art photography (my past career) and had them welded into the still that I am using today in my distillery. I get such a sense of satisfaction knowing that I have incorporated my two careers… two passions.. photography and whisky! My still is a pot still with a barrel thumper keg. Front Range Precision Welding and Fabrication fabricated it from some of my copper plates that were water jet cut by Western Steel and rolled by NCT Metal Fabrication.
My Still’s name is “Old 911”.
What do you think of selling new-make white dog?
Distillery 291 plans to go after the Vodka cocktail drinkers with our 291 Fresh Colorado Whiskey.
What type of whiskey do you make? (bourbon, straight etc.)
Colorado Whiskey, Colorado Bourbon Whiskey, Colorado Rye Whiskey, Fresh Colorado Whiskey, and Colorado White Dog Whiskey
How long is the average age of your whiskey?
Our whiskey is matured differently depending on the ratio of whiskey to barrel this way of maturation will change as we grow.
What are the predominant flavors in your whiskey?
Try it and tell me what you taste.
How do you drink your whiskey?
All neat!… except for our 291 Fresh Colorado Whiskey, which should be used in your favorite cocktail instead of the main spirit
Are there any other less than mainstream products that you distill?
Not at this moment, but new inspiration comes daily! Check back with me in a few months, as only time will tell!
If budget was no issue, what would you like to try to distill? Yes, bacon is an acceptable answer
Watermelon… I am inspired by food. Cooking is another passion. I cook for my family each night… the best ingredients, the best food and the best drink is my moto.. I plan to experimentally distill a plethora of ideas. Each day I see new possibilities…the sky is the limit.. nothing will hold me back… my mind races each night with endless possibilities. I find it hard to turn off “the creative switch” when it is time to go to sleep.
What are some developments you’re planning on in the coming future?
One of Distillery 291’s first products is a white whiskey for the cocktail world. 291 Fresh Colorado Whiskey
Why should folks buy local CO spirits?
I believe that we, the humans that inhabit this earth, need to get back to the basics in our lives.. the way we work, play, eat and drink. I believe in the philosophy that we need to buy and eat local, slow, foods and in turn, I believe that we should make and drink locally hand-crafted beverages. We need to support the creative work of our neighbors, friends and local citizens first and foremost. Also, folks should buy local Colorado spirits because in all the great westerns, the cowboy (good or bad) walked up to the bar and demanded a whiskey (and I guarantee you.. it was made in that same Western town!)
A BIG thank you to Michael Myers for a great interview!
Don’t forget to buy your ticket to the CO Distillers Festival!