Whiskey at The Springs
I recently had to opportunity to visit with Jimmy Kuch, sales rep for Distillery 291 in Colorado Springs. We were hosted by Bishwa Bir Lama, the owner of Hunter's Chophouse in Estes Park. Jimmy laid out a tippling of all the Distillery 291 products and it was a treat. The tasting also reminded me of the trip I took to the distillery in December 2016.
At that time, I was visiting as many Colorado distilleries as I could as part of our research for the Guidebook to Whiskey and Other Distilled Spirits in Colorado, New Mexico & Wyoming, which my business partner, Doug Sacarto, and I then published in May 2018.
Distillery 291 is just a mile or so from the Broadmoor Hotel, a destination property that I highly recommend. The distillery has been in business for six years and they stress their "grain-to-barrel-to-bottle" production methods. Other craft distillers in the Rocky Mountain region also embrace this approach—do you have a favorite? Let me know and we can look at their products as well.
A tour of the distillery cost us $20.00 a person, but $10.00 of that was recovered when we made a whiskey purchase. Be sure and call for a tour. On a Saturday afternoon we were the only two on the tour and the door was actually locked when we arrived at our appointed time.
The tour, however, was very good and it started with sampling in their small tasting room. After a tipple of each offering, the tour began and we moved through the complete distillery process. Every question was answered and we were allowed to take pictures.
They have two whiskey mash bills:
The first mash bill is 80% corn, 19% rye malt, and 1% malted barley. Here they have three expressions:
291 Colorado Bourbon Whiskey. As bourbon it's aged in deep-charred, first-use, American white oak barrels. It is then finished with charred Aspen staves and bottled at 100 proof. My bottle says: “Aged less than 2 years.” That's a big range; and being a bit of an “age” geek, I wish they would advertise the whiskey's actual age, as they do for their 291 American Whiskey. But in the final take, it has to do with how much you enjoy the whiskey and I did enjoy this tipple.
291 American Whiskey. Aged for 3 months, it's also quite tasty; however, for my personal taste it could use a bit more time in the barrel.
291 Fresh Colorado Whiskey. This is their un-aged white corn whiskey. It's one of the best “moonshine” whiskeys I have had. The owner is marketing this as a possible replacement for vodka, rum or tequila in your favorite cocktail.
The second mash bill is 61% rye malt and 39% corn. Here they have two expressions:
291 Colorado Whiskey. This is a small-batch, barrel-aged whiskey made in a pot still. It's the rye counterpart to their Colorado Bourbon. Both expressions are age-labeled at “less than two years.” The Colorado Whiskey is bottled at 101.7 proof. I'm a rye kind of guy and I found this to be one to take home.
White Dog. This rye whiskey, as the name implies, is un-aged.
It's noteworthy that maturation of most of their barrel-aged offerings is done in 10-gallon barrels, where the aging process reportedly takes less time than when a 53-gallon or larger barrel is used. This is one of several innovative ways many distillers are using to get product on the market without having to wait two to four years.
All the Distillery 291 expressions that I tasted recently at Hunter’s Chophouse are the same as those I sampled at the distillery last December, but they seem to be even better. A little extra time in the barrel really does help.