Denver and the surrounding vicinity is home to a vibrant and celebrated craft beer scene.
And that “drink local” mentality has now found its way into a burgeoning distilling industry. The combination of fresh mountain water and ample farmland in the eastern plains of Colorado offer distillers an opportunity to showcase the state’s terroir, which has resulted in an array of flavorful, award-winning spirits. These five local distilleries exemplify the variety and quality of spirits that are made and served in the Denver area.
Laws Whiskey House
Passion and patience drive Laws Whiskey House, both in terms of its business operations and its whiskey-making process. It takes time for the crops to grow. Whiskey has to age. There’s never been a rush to expand the business. Laws Whiskey House only makes whiskey.
“Ours has real distinctive flavors, and that’s what whiskey is all about,” Al Laws, founder of Laws Whiskey House, says. “We know where the grains are grown and the people who grow them. We extract those flavors into different expressions of our whiskey.” Whether it’s the four-grain straight bourbon or rye, cask strength or bottled in bond (to name a sample of its offerings), the Colorado terroir helps make Laws’ whiskeys unique. Even better, the artisans that help transform Mother Nature’s provisions are forever improving. “Today, we are making the best whiskey we’ve ever made,’ he says. “We aren’t looking to cut corners; we want to do it right and do it better each time. We won’t put out anything that’s not extraordinary.”
It’s not uncommon for Denver residents to hit the slopes, and the Mythology Distillery story involves three Denver natives traveling to Alaska in 2016 for a heli-skiing trip. The adventurous excursion inspired them to open a distillery in their home state in 2018. Located in Denver’s LoHi neighborhood, the distillery and cocktail bar with a passion for sustainability recently took home six medals (three gold, two silver and one bronze) at the Denver International Spirits Competition.
“To take home medals in international competitions after being open for only eight months speaks to our immense dedication to our craft,” Scott Yeates, Mythology Distillery founder, says. “We’re extremely proud of our spirits and packaging, so being recognized for that effort is very exciting.” Led by Master Distiller Scott Coburn, Mythology also won the Platinum Award for Hell Bear Whiskey, a blend of straight rye and bourbon. Mythology won two bronze medals at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and received another bronze from American Distilling Institute. Not bad for a distillery that’s barely two years old.
A trip to Denver isn’t complete without visiting the Colorado Rockies, so you might as well visit a distillery while you’re there. Deerhammer Distillery, founded in 2010 by Amy and Lenny Eckstein, operates in Buena Vista, Colorado, in earshot of the whitewater currents of the Arkansas River. The distillery produces Colorado four-grain whiskey, corn whiskey and gin, which is also sold throughout the state and online for everyone else. But, Deerhammer’s flagship is its multi-award-winning American Single Malt Whiskey, a style that the Eckstein’s take seriously. Deerhammer is one of the 50 members actively involved in The American Single Malt Whiskey Commission (ASMWC), which was formed in 2016 to better define, educate and promote the whiskey style.
“The various styles of whiskey being produced in this country are already so much broader than the historic bourbon and rye whiskeys that we’re most known for,” Lenny Eckstein, Deerhammer owner, says. “With so many distilleries here in the U.S. already producing an American Single Malt Whiskey, I think it’s important that the standards of the style be recognized so consumers know why Deerhammer American single malt is different than offerings already coming from countries like Scotland, Ireland, Japan and India, to name a few.” Their Single Malt Whiskey was also awarded the 2018 Good Food Award in the spirits category, followed by another win in 2019 for their Cultura Cask Finished American Single Malt Whiskey.
Peach Street Distillers
In a region dominated by craft beer, it shouldn’t come as a surprise for a distillery to have ties to the local brewing industry. Co-owner of the lauded Ska Brewing, Bill Graham launched Peach Street Distillers as one of Colorado’s first post-Prohibition distilleries, and it has grown into one of the most decorated distilleries operating in the Centennial State. Located in the mountains west of Denver (and sold in more than 200 locations throughout the city), Peach Street produces spirits with a beer twist, like their upcoming schnapps collaboration with Left Hand Brewing. But don’t think of this distillery as some gimmicky operation trying to tie everything to beer. Peach Street makes several types of grappa, eau de vie and brandy, as well as tequila, gin (coming soon), vodka and whiskey, including its Colorado Bourbon.
Denver Distillery can be found in the city’s historic Baker neighborhood and offers an exceptional variety of spirits. Sweet Potato Vodka, Punkin’ Head Liqueur and Strawberry-Kiwi Liqueur certainly grab one’s attention. But Denver Distillery also produces rum, gin, moonshine, coffee liqueur and Distiller’s Reserve Four-Grain Bourbon. Those bourbon barrels are then used to age its unique Navy Strength Spiced Rum, an island-style spirit made with American-grown organic sugarcane molasses and organic sucanat. When you visit, try the Colorado Hemp Absinthe cocktail, mixed with a housemade infusion of organic Colorado hemp and two varieties of wormwood that’s only served in the tasting room.