Breckenridge Distillery, Colorado
There’s Something In The Water.
At 9,600ft (2,926m) above sea level, the town of Breckenridge is a popular ski resort during the winter months and is equally as busy in the summer. The high altitude enables Breckenridge Distillery to claim that it is the worlds highest distillery, while the mineral rich surroundings also leads to its claim that the (iron and sulphur free) water used for distilling and bottling adds a unique character and mouth feel to their spirits.
With a plethora of gold medals, Breckenridge Distillery is clearly doing something right and Founder Bryan Nolt seems to have a clear vision with new equipment waiting to be delivered and huge expansion underway including a new production room, restaurant, cocktail bar and brewery currently under construction. Once all that’s done, a winery is also planned. An enviable achievement since founding the distillery seven year ago, and even more remarkable by the fact that Bryan is still working part time as a physician!
Back in 2007, Bryan spent three weeks touring some of Scotland’s distilleries with a good friend from his Scotch whisky club in Colorado. Upon returning home and while on a fishing trip with another friend to the Breckenridge area, Bryan came up with the idea of starting a distillery there. At the time there were no well-established distilleries in Colorado, with St George Spirits in California being the best known to Bryan at the time. So after some research and attending some of the American Institute of Distilling Courses in Petaluma, Bryan drafted three different business plans and hired the man teaching the courses – Jordan Via to set up his distillery. A year later, Jordan joined the team as the Master Distiller with distilling starting in early 2009.
From two 500 gallon mashes per day, malt whiskey, bourbon and rum are distilled in the original 700 gallon (2,600 litre) pot still, while gin is now produced in a small, six month old copper and stainless still. A new 42ft column still is about to be delivered which will have a capacity to produce 25 barrel of bourbon a day, and will free up the old still to be used exclusively for distilling malt whisky, Bryan’s primary interest.
Hedging their bets on changing consumer trends and building on a strong brand, Breckenridge have over 20 products including a recently added gin, described as ‘American style’ – low on junipers, soft, spicy and with more cardamom, grapefruit and orange. They actually started out by producing vodka on the pot still, but soon felt that is was energy inefficient for distilling vodka so moved to working with a corn based neutral grain spirit. According to Bryan “we are very specific about how the NGS is treated,” “we must have tried every supplier available to get the one that’s the best.” Its finished at the distillery with the local mountain water in order to get the desired mouth-feel; in fact it’s all about mouth-feel at Breckenridge. While visiting, I sampled their pear flavored vodka that I found particularly enjoyable.
With Scottish ancestry and as an avid Scotch whisky fan, particularly for Balvenie and Highland Park 30 year old, Bryan confesses that he makes the large range of spirits just so that he can pursue his romantic dream… to make his own craft small batch malt whiskies! In fact the very seed for his dream was a tasting of the Glenmorangie Signet, a small batch whisky, made from a secret recipe with strong chocolate notes as a result of specially roasted barely. Breckenridge’s own tribute to this is their newly released seven-year-old Dark Arts Malt Whisky. “Unbalanced by intent”, it has a dominant dark chocolate flavor due to the caramelization of the malt and is one of the finest American whiskies I’ve tasted.
Watch out for more eclectic ‘in your face’ malts from Breckenridge over the coming years.
Breckenridge Blend of Straight Bourbon Whiskeys
Breckenridge Pear Flavored Vodka
Breckenridge Espresso Flavored Vodka
Breckenridge Bitter (Liquor with the alpine Genepi flower)
Breckenridge Spiced Rum
Breckenridge Dark Arts – Whiskey Distilled from Malt Mash