Laws Whiskey House in Colorado has demonstrated how unique terroir, and patience, can allow for the development of excellent bourbon and rye in a state far removed from traditional America’s typical whiskey regions.
“Our lineage starts [in Kentucky]. We are a product of the history there, and we admire what goes on in that region. But we don’t want to make that. They already make that. We want to make something in the same family, but we are not making Kentucky Bourbon. Yes, our history starts there, but we come from here (Colorado),” says Alan Laws, founder of Laws Whiskey House.
“It’s an obsession, honestly. We are so far above passion. Whiskey means a lot to me.” Alan Laws
On February 11, at the World Whiskies Awards in New York City Laws Whiskey House 6-Year-Old Bottled in Bond San Luis Valley Rye was the category winner for American Rye Whiskey (12 years and under). In addition to this prestigious award, Laws Whiskey House also received a bronze medal in the non-Kentucky category for their 6-Year Bottled in Bond Straight Four Grain Bourbon.
The 4-grain-whiskey distillery has developed relationships with family farmers in Colorado that grow select grains for Laws. And then, the grains grow out of the Colorado soil, enriched by mountain water amidst the high-altitude air and weather.
“As an American whiskey focused distillery, producing an unapologetic straight rye whiskey has been an obsession here at Laws Whiskey House from the beginning,” says Laws. “Being at the top of this rye category in the World Whiskies Awards three out of the last four years is pretty great and humbling—a testament to the flavorful heirloom variety of rye we use from the San Luis Valley in Colorado, grown by the Cody family.”
“The San Luis Valley Rye we grow for Laws is lovingly attended to by our multi-generational family farm,” says Josh Cody of Colorado Malting Company. “The rye is part of our family. It is at our table when we gather, in our field, through the San Luis Valley winter and finished properly by our family at Laws Whiskey.”
An intimate relationship with farmers, and the soil from which the grain grows, benefits the whiskey distillery.
“Before we ever distill, we know exactly what we will receive from the farms. There’s no guessing or surprises,” notes Laws. The four-grain whiskey distillery then employs a traditional method of open-air, on-grain fermentation to develop its whiskey.
Laws Whiskey House, which opened in 2011, does not distill gin or vodka. It’s all about the whiskey. And, nothing is sourced; it’s 100% made in Denver.
“We get better at it every day. I believe that, said Laws. “Today, we are making the best whiskey we ever made. We don’t intend to put out anything that’s not extraordinary.”
The driving force behind the Laws distillation process involves one word: patience.
“It takes time to develop the perfect grains, and it takes time to grow them. Whiskey must be aged. And whiskey is ideal when sipped with friends.”
And Laws has a habit of waiting a little longer than most distilleries.
“You can’t speed it up,” Alan says. “We are not looking at now, or two years from now. We are looking at five or seven years down the line all the time.”
Laws Whiskey House recently released its 6-Year Bottled in Bond Four Grain Bourbon expression of its award-winning Four Grain Bourbon, which exceeds the minimum four-year standards of the 1897 Bottled in Bond Act. (To be bottled in bond, a whiskey must be made by a single distiller at one location and rely on grain grown during one specific season, either January – June or July – December.)
“I think the extra two years allows us to achieve a much smoother vanilla character, along with some wonderful caramel notes and noticeable black cherry that you just don’t find without the extra aging.”
Each whiskey produced at Laws appeals to both those new to the world of whiskey and the aficionado.
Laws explained: “Our two flagships, rye batch and bourbon batch, are meant to capture not just the novice — to make it very approachable. But they also have layers of complexity so that if you are not a novice, you are still going to appreciate them. And beyond that, we have Bonded, Straight Wheat Whiskey in Curacao Casks and things that speak to a broader audience and passionate whiskey fans.”
“When you look at the world of whiskey, there are a lot of standards and similarities. But what really matters is the complexities. Where is it grown? How is it finished? For me, and for everyone here, whiskey is a labor of love. We are driven to make sure everything from what is grown to how it is barreled results in a whiskey product that make us proud to bottle and share.”