Mountain Stops on the Colorado Spirits Trail
Cheers to these 10 high-country distilleries from the Hearts & Trails Spirits Festival
Photo courtesy 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company
Last month, Hearts & Trails Spirits Festival kicked off the Colorado Spirits Trail. The event will be an annual affair to celebrate an industry that has seen tremendous growth not only in Colorado but nationwide.
While attending Hearts & Trails Spirits Festival I heard several people say that there are now more than one hundred distilleries operating in Colorado, with more planning to open in the next 12 to 18 months.
The new Colorado Spirits Trail, a map that was unveiled at February’s event, features seventy distilleries from around the state.
I’m going to highlight the ten distilleries located in the map’s High Elevation region. This is a great reason to download the map and head to the hills.
Photo courtesy Woody Creek Distillers
Woody Creek Distillers is a must-stop for skiers, boarders, bikers, rafters, hikers and kayakers. It has become a gathering spot for locals and visitors who can frequently be heard saying to one another, “We’ll meet you a Woody Creek later.”
They are one of the few distillers on the Colorado Spirits Trail that grows one of their ingredients—potatoes, to be exact—for use in their award-winning potato vodka.
Photo courtesy of GoBreck
Breckenridge Distillery produces 16 products, but it’s their bourbon that still receives the most accolades. Located in one of Colorado’s prettiest ski towns, Breckenridge Distillery recently built a magnificent new building north of town that also features a restaurant.
A trip here isn’t complete without a tour and tasting, which run every day and are free.
Photo courtesy Deerhammer Distilling Company
Deerhammer Distilling Company is a grain-to-glass distillery in Buena Vista, Colorado. There are few towns with a better view than this little village tucked into Arkansas Valley along the Arkansas River. The river is wildly popular with rafters and kayakers.
Distillery co-founder Lenny Eckstein built the distillery with his own two hands; a visit here is an opportunity to experience the fruits of his labor of love.
Photo courtesy The Distillery Inn
In addition to their groundbreaking environmental practices, they are the only distillery on this list that’s home to an inn. Sip cocktails in the evening and then head upstairs to a contemporary guest room with all the thoughtful touches a world-class traveler would expect.
Photo courtesy Durango Craft Spirits
This distillery’s claim to fame is that they are Durango’s first ever legal distillery. Durango Craft Spirits’ comfy tasting room is a must-stop for any spirit-lover visiting the area.
The town is steeped in history, and it oozes out of every building and pours out of every alleyway. Sipping on a moonshine, vodka or bourbon at Durango Craft Spirits instantly transports the drinker to the Wild West, a time period that hasn’t entirely vanished in this town.
Photo by Nathan Bilow, courtesy Montanya Distillers
You don’t need an excuse to visit Crested Butte, Colorado’s “last great ski town,” but Montanya Distillers is a good reason to visit. They make rum and only rum and they make it well. I believe it’s the best rum you’ll ever taste, but you should definitely judge for yourself.
Their modern mountain tasting room also serves up what’s quickly become the local’s favorite pho, as well as other tidbits of what they call “international street food with a culinary flair.”
Photo courtesy KJ Wood Distillers
I’ve been sipping Jinn Gin by KJ Wood Distillers since John Wood opened the distillery in 2013, and it’s my preferred gin for any drink, including martinis or a simple gin and tonic. I even like it on the rocks.
Located in charming Ouray, Colorado, KJ Wood Distillers has a gorgeous building on Main Street where the public can gather to watch the distilling process or enjoy a cocktail in the upstairs tasting room. They produce vodka, gin and whiskey in bottles featuring some of the most beautiful artwork in the business.
Photo courtesy Peach Street Distillers
Technically it’s not “in” the mountains, but Peach Street Distillers is only 30 minutes from Powderhorn Resort. They were one of the first kids on the block when it comes to distilling in Colorado. In 2005, in a region full of wine, three friends who’d been in the beer business together decided to open a distillery. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, the eclectic distillery and bar is one of the biggest draws to the Palisade and Grand Junction area. You haven’t properly visited Mesa County until you’ve sipped a gin drink on the patio at Peach Street.
Photo courtesy Wood's High Mountain Distillery
Located down the street from Buena Vista, Salida is a river town that comes alive during rafting season. It’s also an artsy community and home to Wood’s High Mountain Distillery.
I recently met Wood’s head distiller, Beck Ceron, at CB Crafted and she was one of the nicest humans I’ve ever met who is sincerely passionate about distilling. After meeting her and tasting their gin, I’m really excited to stop by Salida and take a tour, which they offer them daily at 4:00 p.m.
Photo courtesy 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company
Located in Vail, Colorado, 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company embraces the mountain lifestyle in every way possible, and the co-founders can often be found skiing the slopes of Vail Mountain.
The company gets their name from the 10th Mountain Division, a light infantry division of the United State Army designated as a mountain warfare unit. During WWII, the 10th Mountain Division had a training camp near Vail.
10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company doesn’t just give lip service to the military in the form of their business name, they donate proceeds of every bottle sold to military veterans programs.