I was in Denver for a couple of days, practically trapped in a hotel room as we were without a car, while my husband attended a convention. I tooled around the State Capitol, 16th Street Mall and Larimer Square. I tried lots of local restaurants and the locally made pale ales and barley wine. But I had one day to do something else. I looked through the complimentary magazines on Denver in my hotel room and found an ad that read:
Stranahan’s ORIGINAL & HANDMADE
Please COME VISIT our distillery!
Colorado’s first MICRO-DISTILLERY located just minutes from downtown Denver.
That was enough for me! I found them on Facebook, messaged them, made a tour appointment and hailed a cab.
“Cowboys and cowgirls like drinking whiskey!”
The tour was led by their very well equipped Brand Ambassador Kristin Forsch, a bouncy young woman who clearly loves her job. Kristin greeted her group – a mix of males and a few females, a little over a dozen – who also clearly looked forward to the tour, and the free taste of whiskey at the end.
Kristin said, besides the cowboy comment, that Stranahan’s was the first legal distillery to open in Colorado after the end of prohibition. She continued to explain that they filled their first barrels in 2004. The whiskey, not to be confused with bourbon, was made from 100 percent Rocky Mountain barley (80% Colorado). And, a well-kept secret recently divulged to the public: they use three different roasts similar to how coffee beans are roasted, and lends the same deep roast flavors to their whiskey.
As we toured the “Mash” machine, the “Boil Kettle” and the “Fermenter” Kristin told us that they had recently tripled their production and now filled 45 barrels a week. While looking at the copper pot “Spirit Stills” and then moving onto the “rackhouse” Kristin said that all of the pre-charred American oak barrels holds their whiskey from two to five years before bottling and that different years may be married together.
Currently housing about 1500 toasted barrels that would impart their vanilla and char into the whiskey, Kristin explained that they lose about 8 percent to evaporation. Misters were in place to keep the area climate controlled due to Denver’s dry climate.
The last stop before our tasting was the large bottling room. Empty at the moment, Kristin said that their four-hour bottling parties are very popular. With over 8500 people on the waiting list there is still a good chance to get in as when they call, it’s the first to confirm that gets in.
Tasting the #100 Batch
Our tour ended in the store where handy tasting glasses had been lined up for us. At this point Kristin instructed us to smell and taste without adding water first (guessing to help those new to tasting though I would have added water first to help those new to tasting). For me, the color from across the room was dark copper. However, when I had my glass, it looked more like a deep amber. On the nose, without water, I got honey, vanilla, sweet orange and butterscotch. With water the nose had a creamier element.
On the mouth I got the immediate “char” flavor Kristin had talked about, followed by a sweetness, dried fruit, smoke, toasted sourdough bread and cigarette. Again, when we added water, a creamer mouth feel was welcoming.
I purchased a bottle of batch #100 to take home, and I couldn’t resist a t-shirt with a hot blond straddling a Stranahan barrel that read, “Well built.”
Visit http://www.Stranahans.com when you are in Denver, as for the time being, they don’t distribute out of Denver.