by Mark Peterson
We met Stranahan’s Whiskey at the IACP opening night Gala at the Denver Art Museum. They were there, on the first floor, right when you walked in the door serving up something called a Colorado Cooler, a local mint julep of sorts, cold and refreshing. We were told that the museum frowned upon serving what it saw as shots of whiskey, so samples were available upstairs, straight from the barrel. So that’s where we went and were served a small pour from the spout of a large oak barrel with just a few drops of water to bring out the nuance. In that moment, Emily decided she liked whiskey.
Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey is made in downtown Denver. We wanted a bottle to take home as a souvenir and so we found the distillery on a map and walked over. Ben, one of the distillers, met us at the door and seemed a little surprised to have any visitors. But, after hearing our story of why we were there and how we had found him, he poured us a sample of single barrel and invited us farther in to see the distillery.
The Stranahan’s use a custom made combination pot-and-column still. Ben described the mash as being produced with selected yeasts for flavor, as opposed to the open fermentation used by others. He gave us a sample of the mash to try. It tastes tastes like a full-bodied ale, without the carbonation. Then he explains the distillation process and gives a sample of the full-strength alcohol before it is blended with water and barrel aged. It is clear and strong, no doubt, but has a surprising amount of flavor and depth. Into the barrels it goes for the aging process and is numbered and racked in the adjoining aging room.
Ben led us to the aging room full of barrels and explained how the distillers select and blend barrels for each bottling run, which basically means a bunch of folks tasting from an assortment of barrels that are ready and blending the percentages so that what comes to the consumer in the bottle is just how they meant it to taste.
Back in the front room we sampled the blended whiskey. It is smooth and flavorful and everything that you could want from a superior spirit, made by hand with care. Each bottle you purchase is signed by the distiller that made it what they were listening to at the time. Distiller Jake was listening to Ry Cooder.
Next time you are in Denver, go down and visit the fine people at Stranahan’s, like Ben here. And, ask your local shop to stock the hand-crafted whiskey so that you don’t have to travel too far to get some. Better still.
Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey
200 South Kalamath St.
Denver, Colorado 80223