Thanks to Colorado’s crisp, clear mountain waters and abundance of fresh, farm-to-bar ingredients, the state known for craft breweries is also making a mark in the craft distilleries business. In just the past few years, the number of statewide distilleries has risen from a couple dozen to more than 100, and they’re found all over the sprawling state, from the most heavily populated areas to the most out-of-the-way mountain towns.
In just one little corner of Boulder County, in the thriving small city of Longmont and the nearby little hamlet of Lyons, there are six unique distilleries that can be visited in just a day or two.
117 S. Sunset St., Ste. G1
Longmont, CO 80501
After Peter Grundy retired from a successful software development company, he packed up his family in an RV and took to the road. After motoring across the full length of the county and ending up in Nova Scotia, he discovered a distillery there called Ironworks, housed in an old marine blacksmith’s workshop. As he sipped their award-winning Gin, made with all local, handpicked botanicals, he decided that he wanted to make something similar back home in Colorado. Plus, he had some experience with blacksmithing, so he felt an instant connection to the place, eventually giving his new distillery a blacksmith-themed name.
Anvil Distillery’s Ironface Gin is what Peter calls his “ideal Gin”—it’s less pine-forward than most, infused with botanicals like cardamom, fennel, licorice, lemon peel, orange peel, and lavender that “brings up the floral notes.” Grumpy’s Vodka, an award-winning recipe that’s completely grain-to-glass and 10x distilled, is also the base of 30 or so creative Vodka infusions, like cherry, pineapple, green tea, basil, and pickle juice, and each one can be turned into an inventive cocktail in the tasting room. Swindler’s Light Whiskey is a grain-to-glass spirit stored in oak Caribbean rum barrels to complement the sweet corn flavor. There’s also Fortuity Rum, originally made by another local distiller and aged in oak wine barrels.
Tasting room is open Wednesday and Friday beginning at 5 p.m. and Saturday beginning at 4 p.m. Free, no-reservation tours available during tasting room hours and also during production hours, Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–2 p.m.
BLACK CANYON DISTILLERY
4340 Colorado Highway 66
Mead, CO 80504
Don’t let the name of Black Canyon Distillery’s Winter Whiskey fool you—fortunately, it’s available year-round. Crafted with fresh maple syrup from Michigan and a touch of cinnamon, it warms up your mind, body, and spirit, even when you’re sitting on the distillery’s sunny outdoor patio and not in front of a roaring fire.
Black Canyon’s owners, Fred and Susan Lesnick, put a unique twist on all of their spirits. Mayhem Creek Vodka is infused with four different peppers—jalapeño, serrano, Fresno, and habañero—but the “bite” is a pleasant one that doesn’t burn. There’s also Black Canyon Corn Whiskey (100% Colorado sour mash); Black Canyon Rita (corn Whiskey infused with fresh-squeezed lemon and lime and fresh mint); Coffee Couloir (corn Whiskey blended with locally sourced espresso); and Old Blue Sour Mash Straight Bourbon Whiskey, named in honor of Old Blue, a legendary Texas longhorn steer.
There’s another ode to Old Blue in the distillery—a bronze sculpture made by Susan’s father, an accomplished artist whose Western-themed paintings also adorn the distillery’s walls. And Fred is an artist, too—he not only made his stills by hand, but he also crafted the expansive wooden bar and invited the owners of local ranches to come by and burn their ranch’s brand into the bar top.
Tasting room is open Monday and Thursday 11 a.m.–5 p.m. and Friday–Sunday 1–8 p.m. Free tours usually available anytime during tasting room hours.
DRY LAND DISTILLERS
471 Main St.
Longmont, CO 80501
Nels Wroe and Aaron Main used to make beer, and they often talked about opening a brewery together, but their day-to-day lives kept getting in the way. They continued experimenting with unique beer ingredients, though, concentrating on Colorado natives such as prickly pear cactus, spruce trees, and dry land heirloom wheat, and soon realized that not only did those ingredients make good beer, they also worked well in spirits. After a few test runs, followed by rave reviews from friends and family, they decided to give a distillery a try. They secured an amazing location in a historic building right in the heart of Longmont’s historic downtown and got to work.
When Dry Land Distillers opens in late March or early April, Nels and Aaron will be able to share their spirits with the whole community. They’re especially proud of their Mescal-style Prickly Pear Spirit, a “smoky, earthy, and complex” recipe they mastered while suffering through the pain of cactus thorns in their fingers while trying to figure out how to get to the best part of the fruit. “It makes a spectacular Paloma,” Nels says. Dry Land Heirloom Wheat Whiskey is described as “rich, sweet, and clean,” while Dry Land Gin, “a true labor of love and exploration,” is crafted with the needles and branches of the Colorado Spruce and infused with other locally foraged botanicals.
OPENING SPRING 2018. Tasting room and tour hours were not yet available at press time, so check the website for updates.
STILL CELLARS DISTILLERY & ARTHOUSE
1115 Colorado Ave.
Longmont, CO 80501
Owner-operators Jason R. Houston and Sadye Rose W. didn’t want to open “just” a distillery. They wanted to create a venue where they could support local art and the community, so they host poetry readings, theater performances, live music, educational forums, films, and so much more in their cozy space. Visits to Still Cellars are as much about the events held there as they are about the spirits, but Jason and Sadye also take great care in handcrafting their certified-organic creations like Whiskey Barley, in the tradition of an old-style Scotch; Vodka made from apples and barley; Apple Straightup, an un-oaked Brandy; and two spirits made from Apple Straightup—Apple Ginger and Apple Cinnamon. The spirits are perfect for sipping straight, but Jason and Sadye are also known for transforming them into artful cocktail concoctions that change regularly to celebrate the seasons.
Tasting room is open Wednesdays and Fridays 4–8:30 p.m. (ish), with special events on Thursdays and Saturdays. Check online for updates or follow the Still Cellars Facebook page.
350 Terry St., Ste. 120
Longmont, CO 80501
The mission of Longtucky Spirits is to “celebrate the rich agricultural history of Longmont while creating innovative spirits from the land that surrounds the distillery.” The Longtucky Lounge’s welcoming space—complete with a roomy stage for regular weekly events like live music and comedy nights—features upcycled furnishings and unique cocktails crafted at the expansive bar. Try Lusca, a spiced Rum named after a Caribbean sea monster; Fire, a festive Whiskey infused with spicy cinnamon and ginger; or Silver, a pot-distilled light Rum that makes the most of the sugar beets that Longmont has always been known for. There’s also Shine, a corn Whiskey made with all local ingredients, and Alpine Dry Gin, with local juniper, spruce, sage, and lavender. If the place isn’t too busy, ask for a tour to catch a glimpse of the handmade stills.
Longtucky Lounge is open Wednesday 4–10 p.m. and Thursday 4–11 p.m., Friday 2–11 p.m., Saturday noon–11 p.m., and Sunday 2–9 p.m. Free tours available daily at 5 p.m.
SPIRIT HOUND DISTILLERS
4196 Ute Highway/U.S. 36
Lyons, CO 80540
Craig Engelhorn says he “likes to make stuff,” and he means both beverages and the equipment needed for their production. After a successful run as the original head brewer for one of Colorado’s best-known breweries, Oskar Blues, Craig rounded up three partners, handcrafted his own copper still, and began making single-barrel Whiskey instead, using only Colorado malted barley. It took a while for the Whiskey to be ready, though, so inspired by the skills of hound dogs, Craig became a “spirit hound,” seeking out the very best spirits to add to his repertoire. His small-batchGin was an “experiment,” he says after he foraged his own juniper berries just outside of town. Now it’s so popular that he’s always desperate for supplies of local juniper berries—bring a bag of them by anytime and score a free cocktail!
The Gin and Whiskey are served daily in the rustic and welcoming tasting room along with White Dog Moonshine, an un-aged version of the Whiskey; Mountain Bum Rum, featuring 50 percent Caribbean molasses; and Colorado Sambuca, a burgundy-colored concoction infused with wild-grown elderberries and organic anise.
Spirit Hound’s location in Lyons—close to both Boulder and Longmont—makes it the perfect stop for travelers on their way up to (or home from) Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Tasting room opens daily at 11 a.m. Free tours available.