Colorado’s Distilleries in 80 Days

By guest writer Josh Mishell

When I think about Colorado’s craft distilling industry, I see many parallels to our flourishing craft beer scene. The main difference is that craft distilling is currently where craft beer was 25 years ago. What this means is that there are many opportunities to build a distillery in a unique place, and be the only distillery there.

Hi. I’m Josh Mishell. And I’m driving around the state this summer and sampling booze – in moderation, of course.

One of my jobs as a marketer is to help organize the Colorado Distillers Festival. Along with Jessica Durr, Chris Rippe, and various members of Colorado’s distilling community, we’re aiming to put on one hell of a festival, highlighting our great state’s great craft distilleries. We also give back by donating a portion of the festival’s proceeds to the Colorado Distillers Guild.

There are more than 40 distilleries in Colorado, and it’s my goal to visit as many as possible before the Colorado Distillers Festival at the Rackhouse Pub on September 8, 2013. I’ll be writing about them, posting photos, and more at ColoradoDistillersFestival.com.

Today is day 3 of this wild journey, and right now we’re traveling between Telluride and Durango. My trusty companion and I are on a tour of Colorado’s mountain and Western Slope Distilleries. We’re trying our best to visit as many as we can get ahold of, and have 11 distilleries confirmed on this leg of the trip alone. I’ll be doing more day trips to the front range distilleries as my schedule allows.

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I started at Centennial’s Downslope Distilling, where I met with owner Andy Causey. He sampled me on their various spirits and gave me a tour of their production facility. I seriously enjoyed Downslope’s Double Diamond Whiskey, as well as their one-off whiskey offerings, like Irish Immigrant Single Malt Whiskey. It was refreshing to see a local take on a classic whiskey style you don’t normally see from craft distillers.

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From there, I headed to DIA to pick up @DenverMatt, my traveling companion. He flew in especially for this trip from an undisclosed location. I’m keeping his identity secret because his employer has no idea he’s on a weeklong tour of booze.

We skipped down to the Rackhouse Pub, where the festival is being held, and scarfed down a quick lunch. We got on the road and headed on 285 towards Buena Vista.

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Rolling in about 5pm, we ended up at Deerhammer Distilling. Co-owner Amy Eckstein sampled us on their whiskeys and gin. I  discovered Deerhammer at last year’s Colorado Distillers Festival. Deerhammer’s Whitewater is far and away the best White Whiskey I’ve ever had. We also got to chat for a while with co-owner Lenny Eckstein. His enthusiasm for the craft of distilling was evident, and we’re looking forward to going back to Buena Vista in a few weeks to talk more with Lenny (and go to the Brewers Rendezvous in Poncha Springs).

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They use a grain bill similar to an Imperial Porter and this unaged spirit has an unbelievably tasty chocolate character to it – something not to be missed, especially when it’s in their White Dog Old Fashioned. We also tasted the Green Grind, a mixture of cucumber slices and mint leaves mixed together with their white whiskey.

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In addition to their white whiskey, we enjoyed Deerhammer’s American-Distilling Institute Gold Medal-winning Down Time Single Malt Whiskey, and their seasonal What Whiskey.

There’s so much more to tell you. We’ve already been to 4 distilleries in 36 hours. Stay tuned for next week as we take you around the state’s distilleries.

Tickets to the Colorado Distillers Festival are $40 until July 31, and the price goes up to $45 after that. They’re $50 at the door. Buy tickets at http://ColoradoDistillersFestival.com before they sell out.

About Josh Mishell


Josh Mishell is one of the organizers of the Colorado Distillers Festival, on September 8, 2013 at the Rackhouse Pub. He's the Chief Idea Guy of Fermentable Sugar LLC, a one-man full-service marketing agency in Denver. Previously, Josh was the Creative Director at Flying Dog Brewery. He's a real-deal telemark skier, fly fisherman, and passionate about craft-distilled booze, craft beer, and how these uniquely American industries are marketed.