Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey was the first distillery in Colorado since Prohibition. It began when volunteer firefighter Jess Graber responded to a barn fire in Woody Creek, Colo., and met the owner, George Stranahan.

Stranahan was Hunter S. Thompson’s friend and neighbor and had already started Flying Dog Brewery in Aspen. Every year, Stranahan distilled some small-batch whiskey for Christmas presents. He and Jess got to talking, and in 2004, they opened Stranahan’s (picking that name because it sounded more like a whiskey than Graber.) 

Today, Stranahan’s distillery offers full-hour tours all year round, explaining the mystery behind the product. For $11 you get to taste their Diamond Peak and other original single malt whiskeys, and also get a backstage tour of every stop in the distilling process, from mashing, fermenting, and distilling to barreling and bottling. The tour includes a $10 discount off a bottle of their whiskey. Afterward, hang out in their lounge, which has seasonally flavored cocktails and food trucks, all in a true Colorado setting. 

Join the Bottling Crew

For a special bucket list adventure, volunteer to join the bottling crew. A couple of times a month, some lucky folks get to volunteer to work a four-hour shift corking, labeling, capping, tagging and boxing the liquid gold at Stranahan’s. The pay? A free lunch, free samples and a free bottle of Stranahan’s!

There’s a long list of volunteers, but a lucky 50 names are drawn for each bottling. It’s not quite as easy as it sounds. As the bottles come down the conveyor belt, it takes concentration to cap them, label them and package them. But it certainly is fun. Sign up on Stanahan’s website.

Once a year, master distiller Rob Dietrich releases a special whiskey called Snowflake. Like nature, no two snowflakes are alike. Each bottle of Snowflake has spent two years in white American oak barrels with a #3 char and then been finished in wine, sherry, cognac, rum, and tequila barrels to absorb their unique rich flavors. Snowflake is released only once a year in December, and people camp out overnight for the chance to buy a maximum of two bottles. Check online for the release date — and come early!