April 21st, 2020
Sometimes great success can arrive from misfortune, and that’s the case with Stranahan’s Whiskey. In the late 1990s, George Stranahan’s barn caught fire. Stranahan, a physicist, and co-founder of the fabled Flying Dog Brewery, had the good fortune of meeting Jess Graber, a volunteer firefighter who’d been called to the scene. Stranahan and Graber started talking and quickly discovered they shared a love for Colorado’s majestic outdoors and fine whiskey. Their friendship led to the creation of Stranahan’s Whiskey in 2004. Colorado’s first legal distillery since Prohibition, Stranahan’s also helped to kick off the rise of the Rocky Mountain micro-distillery movement.
Colorado, according to the American Craft Spirits Association, ranks fifth in the United States when it comes to craft distilleries. Only California, New York, Washington, and Texas – all states with significantly larger populations – have more. When it comes to whiskey drinking, a recent Statista report has Colorado as the seventh-highest state in per capita consumption of straight whiskey. It’s not surprising then that a 2019 Esquire article hailed Colorado as “one of the foremost states when it comes to craft whiskey” while also naming Stranahan’s as the state’s “most famous distillery.”
Stranahan’s signature whiskey, Original Colorado Single Malt, stands as one of the first American whiskeys made completely from malted barley. Its exceptional taste comes the special blending of different whiskeys that have aged anywhere from two to five years. A few years back, the Denver-based distillery introduced an additional small-batch single malt whiskey, the black-labeled Diamond Peak. While the Original holds notes of caramel, vanilla, and spiced pear, Diamond Peak’s palate contains hints of apricot, Mexican hot chocolate, and dark-roasted coffee. The newest member of the Stranahan whiskey clan is the Sherry Cask. This single malt’s vibrant flavor arises from four-year-old whiskey that finishes in 500-liter sherry barrels, a process used for decades in the Andalusian region of southern Spain. The cask’s sherry-soaked planks bring a richness of tone to this whiskey.
While this pioneering distillery is renowned for its small-batch whiskeys, Stranahan’s Snowflake whiskey could best be described as a “tiny batch.” The limited-edition, one-of-a-kind Snowflake is available each year for only one day in December. This seasonal sensation is fashioned by combining samples of two-year-old whiskey that have been finished in the variety of one-time wine, rum, sherry, cognac, and tequila barrels in the distillery.
Stranahan’s, which is now owned by Proximo Spirits (home to Jose Cuervo, 1800 Tequila, Three Olives Vodka, and Kraken Rum), welcomes visitors to its Denver facilities on more than just “Snowflake Day.” Folks can go on a regular or a VIP whiskey tour as well as participate in a whiskey tasting or a cocktail class. In response to the Covid 19 crisis, bookings have been put on hold for a few months but are expected to resume in June. The distillery’s cocktail lounge was crowned America’s #1 Whiskey Bar by Yelp reviewers in 2019 and currently offers a carry-out cocktail service. Stranahan’s is known too for having volunteers help out on bottling days. This activity has become so popular that they draw names to see who gets to join their bottling crew.
Stranahan’s also lets true whiskey enthusiasts take their affection to a higher level. A limited number of the distillery’s Private Reserve barrels can actually be purchased. Their Single Barrel program allows you to learn about Stranahan’s whiskeys, get a taste directly from a barrel, and then select a cask to call your own – then you can enjoy a truly unique single malt whiskey tasting experience directly from your very own barrel!