25 New Colorado Spirits to Drink in 2021 and Beyond

While Colorado has long been known as one of the premier states for craft brewing, it’s only really been in the last decade that it’s grown into a legitimate mecca for craft distilling. Nestled in the high country and across the front range, a growing number of distilleries have been popping up, producing what is arguably some of the best hooch in the country. There’s plenty of commitment to the land, with many of the purveyors supporting, or strictly incorporating, local grain. This is juice with bold terroir, rugged aesthetics and chic cosmopolitanism. While the scene is relatively young, that hasn’t stopped a new generation of producers from batching, aging and dispensing the kind of products that are truly beginning to set the new standard.

The Family Jones


Location: 3245 Osage St., Denver

Spirit: Ella Jones Bourbon and Nectar Jones Honey Liqueur

Suggested Retail: $55 for Ella Jones and $36 for Nectar Jones

Where to Buy: Both spirits are available for purchase at the spirit house, and at these retailers.

The Lowdown: Despite only having opened in November 2017, The Family Jones has quickly become a household name and a favorite of many of the city’s bartenders. The meteoric rise makes sense, owed in part to the broad portfolio — vodka, gin, rum, whiskey and prebatched cocktails are all prepared with care – and a general commitment to both keeping things grain-to-bottle and doing so with transparency. “We believe that every act of eating and drinking is an agricultural act, and therefore give great respect and attention to the farms where the process begins,” said brand ambassador Nick Touch.

This spring’s Ella Jones Bourbon is the distillery’s second batch of the annual flagship product. With notes of dark cherry, toasted cereal grains, vanilla and caramel, the bourbon is a nice sipper — though, even at 94 proof, it feels somehow more gentle than many of its peers. For the real connoisseur, the team recently released a Distiller’s Selection — a tasting room-only, 110 proof variation drawn from head distiller Rob Masters’ favorite or “honey” barrel, with hints of butterscotch, hay, honeysuckle and presumably a side of rumination.

The Nectar Jones Honey Liqueur was developed in collaboration with the artist Kristen Hatgi, who hosted an exhibition at the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art that featured honey-covered humans and objects, both live and on video. The group repurposed some of that honey, distilling it safely into a liquid with hints of chamomile, coriander and of course strong notes of its prime ingredient. Keeping in the spirit of Hatgi’s showcase, all proceeds of the release have been donated to the Colorado State Beekeepers Association, the MCA and Warren Tech’s culinary department. The bottle is emblematic of the Family Jones’ general ethos, where an amazing outcome seems to be the natural byproduct of a place sticking to its principles.

Laws Whiskey House


Location: 1420 South Acoma St, Denver

Spirit: Centennial Straight Wheat Whiskey

Suggested Retail: $75

Where to Buy: Both directly from the online store and at the majority of the retailers where Laws distributes. 

The Lowdown: Laws Whiskey House has been espousing a similar commitment to Colorado grain since 2011, establishing itself as one of the elder statesmen of the local culture in the process. Sticking strictly to whiskey, Laws has always prided itself on doing things the hard way, avoiding shortcuts in favor of producing a superior product.

The Centennial Straight Wheat Whiskey marks the third edition in a line that began in 2019, as one of the first bonded wheat whiskey releases in the nation. Composed from heirloom wheat grown in the San Luis Valley by Colorado Malting Company on the Cody Family Farm, the golden-hued hooch has notes of jasmine tea, sage, orange, vanilla and a proper kick of pink peppercorn. It’s a sturdy selection — following the strict 100 proof protocol necessitated to meet the bottled-in-bond standard — and should be approached with equal measures of reverence and delight.

State 38 Distilling


Location: 400 Corporate Circle, Suite B, Golden

Spirit: Hacedor Agave Spirits

Suggested Retail: Blanco $35, Reposado $45 and Anejo $55

Where to Buy: At these retailers.

The Lowdown: Golden-based State 38 Distilling has always been about agave. Since opening in 2013, the distillery has done lovely renditions of the classics while taking the time to experiment with some now discontinued lines of gin and vodka made from magueys. The team launched its whiskeys in 2016, returning with its Damn Good line of vodka, gin and absinthe two years later. This summer, State 38 rebranded its agave line, reintroducing its blanco, reposado and anejo as Hacedor — a delicious set that uses blue weber agave cut with Rocky Mountain spring water.

“We really wanted to move from a branded house to a house of brands so each line had its own unique identity but still fell under the umbrella of State 38. Our Damn Good line was the first step in this process and we saw great success with attracting new consumers,” said founding partner Sean Smiley. Both the blanco and anejo are built on fairly traditional processes, with the reposado having enjoyed nine months in the company’s used bourbon barrels for a lovely intersection of some of the distillery’s finest flavors.

Mythology Distillery


Location: 3622 Tejon St., Denver.

Spirit: The Forager’s Botanical Gin

Suggested Retail: $35 – 37

Where to Buy: At these retailers.

The Lowdown: Mythology is another young pup of a distillery, that in three short years has become a key contributor to the state’s growing landscape. The highly visible, animal-based iconography tells a portion of the story, but much of the success has centered around a growing line of blended whiskeys and house-distilled clear spirits all produced under the stewardship of founder Scott Yeates.

Last June, Mythology released its first iteration of The Forager’s Botanical Gin — a collaboration with the Denver Botanic Gardens that featured lemon verbena, chamomile and elderflower plucked straight from the York Street location. Over this most recent Memorial Day, Yeates and new head distiller Chris Ritenour dropped a second edition, following largely the same recipe as last year’s. Ritenour — who last acted as the head distiller at Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. in Illinois — has made some minor adjustments, drawing the elderflower back and letting the lemon verbena shine through. While not dramatically different than 2020’s, the current version still seems like a subtle step forward. “This will likely be the last year we do this recipe,” said Yeates, noting that the team kept it largely the same due to customer demand. “People kept asking for it. In the future we will do new recipes with each subsequent year,” he continued.

Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey


Location: 200 South Kalamath St., Denver

Spirit: Bushmills Single Malt Cask Whiskey

Suggested Retail: $69.99

Where to Buy: Directly from the distillery.

The Lowdown: Of everything coming out of Colorado, Stranahan’s has done a good job of remaining the most visible. It recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of its first release, and at the tail end of last year introduced head distiller Owen Martin as the new man behind the magic. Despite spending the majority of his tenure in the throes of COVID, Martin has been quick to introduce some exciting products, including Blue Peak, a lighter proof variation that matures in massive oak foeders for a more accessible, camping-friendly expression.

Another of Martin’s more recent additions is the Distillery Exclusive series. Beginning with a Bushmills cask-aged single malt — which sees the traditional juice, aged four years, spending an additional three years in one of the Irish giant’s spent barrels — this will be the first of what is set to be a biannual tradition. It’s all butterscotch and earthy grain with a nose that smells of a great shoe shine, though twice as invigorating and just as strut-inducing.

Syntax Spirits Distillery and Cocktail Bar


Location: 700 6th St., Greeley.

Spirit: Smoky Single Malt Whiskey

Suggested Retail: $55

Where to Buy: Directly from the distillery.

The Lowdown: Greely’s own Syntax Spirits Distillery is yet another location that has long been committed to serving up grain-to-glass spirits almost entirely comprised of Colorado ingredients. Beginning in 2010 with vodka, the distillery — founded by still mistress Heather Bean — quickly expanded into whiskey and rum, finally adding gin to the portfolio by 2016.

The Smoky Single Malt Whiskey was originally developed as a collaboration with Loveland’s Grimm Brothers Brewhouse. Distilled from one of Grimm’s rauchbier recipes, the spirit maintains the base beer’s smokiness, evoking a tray of oatmeal cookies that spent a minute or two too long in the oven — coming out perfect, albeit a touch overdone.

Doña Loca

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Location: Dana Rodriguez’s restaurants include Work and Class at 2500 Larimer St., Denver and Super Mega Bien at 1260 25th St., Denver. The spirits can be purchased directly from both locations.

Spirit: Espadin, Tobala and Tepeztate Mezcal

Suggested Retail: Espadin $49.99, Tobala $119.99 and Tepeaztate $139.99

Where to Buy: Both directly from the online store and at these retailers.

The Lowdown: When James Beard Award-nominated chef Dana Rodriguez puts her name and support behind anything, it’s best to pay attention. Case in point, Doña Loca’s recently released line of mezcals. In the first quarter of 2021, Rodriguez and the company’s partners, founders Scott Kiere and Karen Ashworth, established Doña Loca in hopes of highlighting Mexican producers and creating awareness around the community-run palenque from which the juice is sourced.

The mezcals — including an Espadin, a Tobala and a Tepeztate — are all single-origin, produced by Enrique Diaz Cruz on a family estate in Yautepec, Sierra Madre del Sur, Oaxaca. Each expression is deep without being intimidating, much like Rodriguez’s food, which seems to forever remain ahead of the curve no matter how simply it’s packaged. Doña Loca is fit to be nestled away at the center of any proudly curated shelf, though its appearance by the pool may turn ordinary festivities into something a bit more on the mystical side.

Sweetens Cove


Spirit: Tennessee Bourbon

Suggested Retail: $200

Where to Buy: At retailers of fine spirits, including Argonaut, Applejack, Bonnie Brae and others. 

The Lowdown: Sweetens Cove may be the one thing on this list not actually produced in Colorado, but Peyton Manning’s involvement surely gives the new luxury spirit a proper local tie. Born from, and sharing a name with a golf club in Tennessee’s Sequatchie Valley, Sweetens Cove was inspired by Manning’s many visits to the decidedly rustic course. There, he would enjoy the site’s tradition in which golfers would bring whiskey, take sips before teeing off, and leave the bottle on the green for future players to enjoy. Though the GOAT’s involvement is really only a fraction of the story.

The other big star of the show is master blender Marianne Eaves. Beginning with a chemical engineering internship at the University of Louisville, Eaves took a nontraditional route into the spirits world. At Brown-Forman — the folks behind Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve and Old Forester — she trained under Chris Morris, eventually becoming master distiller by way of master taster. After a spell at Castle and Key, she started with Sweetens at the end of 2019. The team released its first bourbon in May 2020, with the latest edition being a distinctly different expression than the previous year’s. There’s a lot going on in each sip — the juice is a blend of four, six and 16-year-old bourbons from across five lots — with subtle notes of red wine and baking spice eventually folding into leather, black pepper and pear. “Marianne has been the captain and the quarterback,” grinned Manning.

Dry Land Distillers


Location: Alley Entrance, 471 Main St. Unit B, Longmont.

Spirit: Prickly Pear Cactus Reposado

Suggested Retail: $42

Where to Buy: Both directly from the online store and at these retailers.

The Lowdown: No strangers to labor-intensive processes and careful sourcing, Dry Land Distilling has been strict in cultivating its vision of products inspired by and paying homage to the American West. Nels Wroe, Aaron Main and Marc Staats opened their small Longmont-based distillery and tasting room three years ago with the intention of producing remarkable spirits that paid respect to and highlighted ingredients that were unmistakably tied to this region — a stretch covering both Colorado and Wyoming. Their commitment runs deep, with the Antero Wheat Whiskey utilizing grain developed by Colorado State University and currently grown at the nearby Arnusch Farms.

But it’s the Prickly Pear spirits that really set the place apart. Wroe found an unlikely inspiration after picking needles out of his dog’s paw shortly following a hike, figuring that the local cactus could be used in a similar fashion to agave. The experiments paid off, and the first Prickly Pear Silver was born. After resting the liquid in small barrels for between six and 12 months, the reposado emerged, even better than the original. Vanilla, spice, oaky tannins and a good dash of clay shape each sip.

Talnua Distillery and Tasting Room


Location: 5405 West 56th Ave. Unit C, Arvada.

Spirit: Old Saint’s Keep Single Pot Still American Whiskey

Suggested Retail: $85

Where to Buy: Both directly from the online store or at the distillery.

The Lowdown: On Saint Patrick’s Day 2019, husband and wife duo Meagan and Patrick Miller opened an Irish whiskey distillery in the heart of Arvada. They had been distilling since 2018, after building the place out the previous year. Talnua — which means “new world” in Irish Gaelic — is as much a mantra as it is a name, with the Miller’s committing themselves to produce spirits according to the Irish Whiskey Technical File. This requires that they adhere to a set of strict rules laid out by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. “We are exclusively focused on distilling Single Pot Still Whiskey and leading the American revival in the category. We are a true example of Gaelic tradition meeting American pioneerism,” said Patrick. Each bottle has deep historical ties, with some of it being arguably more Irish than many of the bottles currently coming out of Ireland.

Each year on Saint Patrick’s Day, the team releases a new Olde Saints Keep — a tasting room-only release that sees Patrick, who is also head distiller, flexing his skills. This year’s rendition is a whiskey made from half malted and half unmalted barley, triple distilled in a truly elegant arrangement of copper pot stills and then aged in charred virgin American white oak casks for two years. It is then finished for six months in Pedro Ximinez and Amontillado Sherry casks imported from Spain. Each sip is like a hug from an old friend, with robust dried fruit, toasted walnuts and gingerbread meandering graciously across the palate.

Breckenridge Distillery


Location: The Tasting Room is located at 137 South Main St., Breckenridge.

Spirit: Rum Cask Finish

Suggested Retail: $70

Where to Buy: At select Colorado retailers.

The Lowdown: Breckenridge Distillery is truly a member of Colorado’s old guard, having been producing top-tier spirits since it first opened in 2008. The line of award-winning hooch is certainly whiskey-centered, though additions like aquavit and chile vodka land as a good indication of the team’s range.

The Rum Cask Finish is a favorite of founder and CEO Bryan Nolt, and for good reason. Classic Breckenridge Bourbon is aged in the distillery’s own Colorado Rum casks, creating an unmistakable convergence that starts with big carnival candy apples and settles gradually into rich chocolate notes and earthy cacao. The multiple stages of macerations with dried fruit peels, spices, roots, barks, herbs and spices that contribute to the rum’s production are still there, left as a whisper ensconcing the whiskey’s bolder flavors.

Lee Spirits Co.


Location: 110 East Boulder St., Colorado Springs.

Spirit: Strawberry Ginger Gin

Suggested Retail: $32.99

Where to Buy: At these retailers.

The Lowdown: Opened in 2016 by cousins Ian and Nick Lee, Lee Spirits is a gin-focused distillery with a wide range of juniper spirits built with classic cocktails in mind. With tasting rooms in Colorado Springs and Monument, the brand has continued to push out a range of gins, flavored liqueurs and one impressive peppermint schnapps.

The Strawberry Ginger Gin is perhaps the most summer-ready in the location’s growing catalog. With vivid scents of fresh strawberry, the palate is all light lemon and ginger spice, with grassy, floral and spice notes coming from the original gin. This is the perfect base for a French 75, topped with sliced strawberries and downed in numbers. The distillery also just released a series of canned cocktails, with the Strawberry Lemonade incorporating the spirit alongside lavender and whiskey variations.

Boulder Spirits

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Location: 5311 Western Ave. Suite 180, Boulder.

Spirit: Adventure Kit

Suggested Retail: $29.99

Where to Buy: Directly from the Vapor Distillery Tasting Room, online and at liquor stores across Colorado.

The Lowdown: Vapor Distillery was opened in 2007, originally producing award-winning gin, barrel-aged gin and coffee liqueur. In 2012, current head distiller Alastair Brogan moved stateside from his native Scotland, refocusing the location’s efforts to veer towards whiskey. Now, as the owner of Vapor Distillery, he releases single malt whiskeys under the brand Boulder Spirits.

On June 15, Boulder Spirits released its Adventure Kit. Featuring six 50 milliliter bottles of the location’s whiskeys — New American, peated malt and bottled-in-bond whiskeys and straight, sherry cask and bottled-in-bond bourbons — the pack is a good way to sample Brogan’s impressive range. Inspired by a series of COVID-friendly Zoom tastings, the kit also features a QR code that brings tasters to a 30-minute video with Brogan and brand ambassador Ryan Negley, where the duo discusses tasting notes and motivations.

Ironton Distillery and Crafthouse


Location: 3636 Chestnut Pl., Denver.

Spirit: Switchback Single Malt Whiskey

Suggested Retail: $55

Where to Buy: Directly from the distillery.

The Lowdown: Opened in 2018, Ironton Distillery and Crafthouse boasts a massive patio, generally elegant design and a mural by Casey Kawaguchi adorning the spacious tasting room. Founded by Colorado-born Kallyn Peterson and 20-year veteran of the Denver service industry Robbie Adams, Ironton highlights head distiller Laura Walters’ penchant for creating everything from Dutch-style barley gin to traditional absinthe, wormwood and all. Walters is a graduate of Oregon State University’s celebrated Fermentation Science program, her knowledge neatly on display in each sip.

On June 19, the distillery released its Switchback Single Malt Whiskey. Packaged in a durable metal container, the truly delightful summer sipper was obviously built with adventure in mind. This is hooch for the campfire, easily nestled in backpacks and light enough for long journeys and solid elevation gains. But novelty aside, Switchback’s flavor epitomizes summer — cantaloupe, stone fruit and caramel swirl throughout the nose, with just a touch of grass arriving on the palate, as gentle as an Aspen afternoon.

Marble Distilling Co.


Location: 150 Main St., Carbondale.

Spirit: Hoover’s Revenge and Paonia Peach Brandy

Suggested Retail: Hoover’s Revenge Ragged Mountain Rye $69.95 and Paonia Peach Brandy $34.99.

Where to Buy: Paonia Peach Brandy is a tasting room exclusive. Hoover’s Revenge is sold at retailers across the front range. 

The Lowdown: Like many Carbondale residents, husband and wife duo Connie Baker and Cary Shanks care a lot about the environment. The pair opened up Marble Distilling Co. in 2014 and have since established themselves as pioneers in the development of sustainable distilling systems. Known for its Gingercello, coffee liqueur and Hoover’s Revenge whiskey series, Marble has been putting its money where its mouth is, with plans to have net-zero electricity by 2022. “We love booze, but we can’t be destroying the planet to do it,” grinned Baker.

The recently-released peach brandy is a true revelation. After Baker was offered 500 pounds of peaches from nearby Riverside Orchards, she set to work creating two barrels of what has quickly become a coveted juice. The brandy is aged in second-generation barrels that previously held both Gingercello and then bourbon. The liquid grandchild takes characteristics from its forefathers, with only a few cases left at the distillery until folks can convince Baker to break open the second barrel.

Montanya Distillers


Location: 212 Elk Ave., Crested Butte.

Spirit: Valentia Rum

Suggested Retail: $54.99

Where to Buy: At these retailers.

The Lowdown: Karen Hoskin opened Montanya Distillers in 2008. She wanted to fuse her love for rum with a clearly defined sense of social responsibility. The distillery has since been recognized as a Certified B Corp and a Best for the World company, with the team consistently advocating values of inclusivity and environmentalism.

Four years ago, Montanya distiller Renee Newton distilled an exceptional base rum at the original Crested Butte location. It’s been aging since, spending an additional few months maturing in Catoctin Creek Rye barrels. The distillery donates a portion of the proceeds to the Women of the Vine and Spirits Foundations, which supports women in the spirits industry through education, leadership and professional development. Flavor-wise, the rum is best enjoyed over ice, its unmistakable flavor edging close to good barbecue.

10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirit Company

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Location: The Tasting Room is located at 227 Bridge St., Vail. The Distillery and Tasting Room is located at 500 Trail Gulch Rd., Gypsum.

Spirit: Brandy

Suggested Retail: $29.99

Where to Buy: Directly from either the Gypsum or Vail Tasting Rooms.

The Lowdown: Originally founded in 2014, The 10th Mountain Whiskey and Spirit Company was developed as an homage to the 10th Mountain soldiers who inspired the brand’s rugged aesthetic and mountain lifestyle. With a general focus on bourbon, rye whiskey, vodka, moonshine and cordial, the distillery has recently been experimenting with other products, including the recently-released brandy and an upcoming American Single Malt.

The brandy utilizes Pinot Noir grapes from Smith Family Wines of Monterey, California. The juice is then aged 10th Mountain bourbon barrels for an utterly indulgent spirit with notes of preserved fruit and cream. No visit is complete without picking up a bottle of the whiskey-barrel aged maple syrup, which is as good in cocktails as it is on a stack of flapjacks.

Golden Moon Distillery


Location: The distillery is located at 412 Violet St., Golden. The Golden Moon Speakeasy is located nearby at 1111 Miner’s Alley, Golden.

Spirit: Mugishochu

Suggested Retail: $29

Where to Buy: Directly from either the distillery or tasting room. It will then be available across Colorado retailers by the end of the month.

The Lowdown: Golden Moon Distillery makes award-winning spirits. Owner and head distiller Stephen Gould’s single malt whiskeys consistently impress judges, with the locally sourced, hyper-locally malted barley providing a firm foundation. Additionally, the distillery produces everything from aged gin to Creme de Violette, most recently adding shochu to the growing lineup.

Gould spent some of his high school years in Japan, where he got an early exposure to the joys of the country’s whiskey. It wasn’t until years later, while he was working in Tokyo for Ford Motors that he learned about shochu. The clear, generally higher proof spirit is mostly produced from either carrot, sweet potato, sugar, rice or barley. Mugishochu is the barley rendition, with Golden Moon’s latest release acting as something of a derivative of the distillery’s generally whiskey-forward portfolio. “I played around with this almost as a goof because I like shochu,” laughed Gould, noting that the bottle recently took gold at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Flavor-wise, each sip is nothing short of liquid clarity, with notes of immaculate barley and koji. Tasted on its own, the drink has all the crystal potency of a haiku, though Gould made it with cocktails in mind. It can be enjoyed simply with either hot or cold water in a ratio of three parts shochu to two parts water but is probably best as part of a highball, garnished with fresh lemon or grapefruit peel.

Peach Street Distillers


Location: The distillery is located at144 Kluge Ave., Palisade. Ska Street Brewstillery is located at 1600 38th St., Boulder

Spirit: Peach Infused Bourbon

Suggested Retail: $55

Where to Buy: Directly from the Brewstillery, with more to arrive at liquor stores across the front range in August.

The Lowdown: In 2005, a couple of the founders of Durango’s Ska Brewing Company Dave Thibodeau and Bill Graham joined up with Rory Donovan and head distiller Davy Landig to open Peach Street Distilling in Palisade. Hoping to highlight the region’s very real and well-celebrated bounty, Peach Street boasts a massive line of whiskeys, brandies, grappas, agave spirits and eau de vie.

The recently-released Peach Infused Bourbon took the distillery’s original bourbon whiskey, aged it in its own peach brandy barrels and — when the team found the product not quite peachy enough — added 50 pounds of dehydrated Palisade peaches. The result is peachy indeed, with the elegant light-brown liquor acting as one of the distillery’s first real peach-flavored products. “We chose the name Peach Street because the distillery is on Peach Avenue. People think everything we do has peaches in it,” laughed director of sales Dustin LeMoine. Whiskey can often imply fireside coziness. This one is all summer.

All photography by Alden Bonecutter.

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