Denver and Colorado have long been recognized as havens for beer lovers and brewers, which explains the wide variety of brewery tours. Only in recent years has that love of fine craft alcohol transferred to the art of distilling spirits.
STRANAHAN'S COLORADO WHISKEY
Stranahan's lays claim to being the first Colorado-born whiskey, and the company remains committed to making the smoothest, most distinctively flavored whiskey on the market. How do they do it? By using handcrafted distilling techniques and Colorado's finest natural ingredients. The connoisseurs of the beverage world are taking notice, too: Stranahan's Batch 49 was voted artisanal whiskey of the year in 2010 by Malt Advocate magazine.
Tours (fees required) of the distillery last approximately one hour and include an overview of the company and a guided stroll through the production brew house, still house and rack house. See the bottling room floor and — most importantly — get a taste of Colorado's most precious gold, Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey. All guests are required to have a valid ID with proof of age. Must be 21. Reservations are highly recommended, especially on Fridays and Saturdays. Make an online reservation.
LAWS WHISKEY HOUSE
Denver's newest distillery, Laws Whiskey House, is all about the long game. Each batch of its A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon is produced via traditional open-air fermentation, aged a minimum of two years in 53-gallon charred American White Oak barrels and includes meticulously sourced ingredients: water, yeast, corn, barley, wheat and rye. (Hence the name "Four Grain.") Grab a glass in the tasting room or schedule a tour to see how it's done. Tours available Thurs.–Sun. Tour cost is $10. A credit of $10 will be issued at the end of the tour toward any product purchased in the tasting room.
RISING SUN DISTILLERY
The mission at Rising Sun Distillery is simple: produce the finest hand-crafted distilled spirits around and have fun doing it! They start with the best locally sourced produce and grains available (much of it organic), then prepare the spirits using pure-filtered Colorado water. As a craft distillery, Rising Sun's vodka, gin and Colorado peach brandy are handmade from scratch in small batches to assure high quality and consistent flavor. Stop by the tasting room for a unique twist on a Shanghai (pineapple juice, lime, rice vinegar, chili, simple syrup and RSD Vodka).
You'll find spirits from this family-owned (hence the name) distillery on cocktail menus across Denver. Whether your tastes run to whiskey, gin, vodka, fernet, absinthe, liqueur or aperitivo, Leopold Bros. doesn't disappoint. The operation began in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but brothers Todd and Scott Leopold moved back to their home state of Colorado in 2008, where they set up shop in Denver in the Stapleton neighborhood. Locals especially love their unique flavored spirits, such as the Rocky Mountain Peach Whiskey, Rocky Mountain Blackberry Whiskey, Three Pins Alpine Herbal Liqueur and Frenchpress-Style American Coffee Liqueur. Schedule a tour to taste up to 15 of their different spirits! Tours available Sat.–Sun. at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tour cost is $20. A credit of $10 will be issued at the end of the tour toward two bottles purchased in the tasting room. The other $10 will be donated to one of four local non-profit organizations. Schedule your tour.
MILE HIGH SPIRITS
One of the country’s premier private label and custom brand distilleries, Mile High Spirits is located in the trendy LoDo district. MHS is one of three distilleries in the world to use an all-glass still for distillation, which means that no metals or impurities are picked up throughout the distilling process, allowing for the most pure, crisp and high-quality product possible. Beyond private label, Mile High Spirits offers its own products to the mix, including Elevate Vodka, Fireside Whiskey, Peg Leg Rum and Denver Dry Gin.
LOCAL TIP: Mile High Spirits' tasting room boasts a great patio with picnic tables and yard games. Come hungry, because the tasting room almost always has a delicious food truck vending in front of the glass garage door.
Downslope's goal is to produce and sell the highest-quality distilled spirits available, to do so locally and to make those products first available to the Colorado community. This Centennial distillery's unique and award-winning products include Cane Vodka (made from the juice of Maui sugar cane before it's processed into sugar), Pepper Vodka (infused with New Mexico dried red chilies and black pepper from Indonesia) and Gold Rum (created in the same barrels used for tequila).
BLACK CANYON DISTILLERY
Black Canyon, located about 35 miles north of Denver in Longmont, makes beautifully balanced whiskey from fine Colorado grain and pure Rocky Mountain water. Stop by the tasting room for a tumbler of Black Canyon Winter Whiskey, which won a gold medal at last year's Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival. The distillers are excited to debut the company's first Bourbon this August.
Boulder's award-winning Vapor Distillery (formerly Roundhouse Spirits) makes its spirits in exceptionally small batches, using only the finest raw ingredients and traditional copper pot stills. In addition to standards such as Rhok Gin and Pruf Vodka, try the Arrosta Coffee Liqueur and seasonal Pumpkin King Cordial. Stop by for a tour Tues.–Fri. at 4 p.m. or Sat.–Sun. at 3 p.m. or 5 p.m.
Looking for a comfortable and insightful way to experience Denver's distillery business? Consider taking a tour with Centennial Tours. Besides learning about the magic behind producing whiskey, spirits and cocktails, tour guests also get a glimpse of Denver history. The company offers a variety of options, including walking, chauffeured and party-bus tours.