Touring Colorado whiskey distilleries
By Carin R. Kirkegaard; photos courtesy of Jim Taylor
There are nearly 100 distilleries located across the state making handcrafted liquor, including some of Colorado’s own whiskey. Resident Jim Taylor has been touring some of the local venues, sampling from their tasting rooms and refining his taste for a top-shelf, handcrafted whiskey.
Taylor admits that he is not a huge aficionado of the many varieties of whiskeys filling the shelves at liquor stores and bars. “I never was much of a Jim or Jack person,” commented Taylor. It was after having a pour with a friend from a 20-year-old bottle of Macallan whisky that helped Taylor find his love for the spirit.
Following his new-found appreciation, Taylor has toured Denver’s Stranahan’s distillery, learning how the American single malt whiskey came into being. In 2015, Taylor and his sister-in-law lined up outside the Stranahan’s doors at 4 a.m. in hopes of purchasing a bottle of the company’s coveted Snowflake whiskey. The whiskey is like an actual snowflake; there are no two alike. Each batch of this special whiskey is uniquely created by the distillers and released on one designated day in December. He was lucky enough to purchase four bottles on that cold December morning. Two he kept and the other two he donated to his kid’s school silent auction.
While waiting in line with other whiskey lovers, Taylor learned of Stranahan’s bottling opportunities. On bottling day at the distillery the company brings in a volunteer crew, one shift in the morning and one in the afternoon, to help bottle whiskey.
With 25,000 people on the volunteer list, Taylor was fortunate to have his name selected. Volunteers are on the bottling line, unloading glass, corking, labeling, capping, shrinking, tagging and boxing right along with the employees. “It’s fast-paced, labor-intensive work,” said Taylor. At the end of the shift, they feed you pizza and beer, and volunteers get samples of whiskey. In addition, each volunteer gets to bring home the fruits of their labor – a bottle of whiskey they bottled and signed.
Having toured other local distilleries like Leopold Bros. in Denver and Breckenridge Distillery up in Breckenridge, Taylor has a growing assortment of whiskey to choose from. Although when it comes to his bottle of Snowflake he says, “That one is for a special occasion, not just because it’s Friday.”