In coming months, the Pikes Peak region will see its fourth and fifth distilleries come to market, joining two newbies from 2014 and our original spirit-maker, now midway through his fourth year. Such numbers may pale in comparison to those in local brewing, but interest in craft hooch continues to grow.
And concern, too: As you'll read on p. 23, consumers and self-policing industry types are holding big-label guys and supposed craft outfits accountable for bait-and-switch tactics, or at least origin-point obfuscation.
But when it comes to our area distillers, you'll find a clear dedication to true craft methods, if not all-out obsession over authenticity and the nerdy, nitty-gritty practices and methods that make a product shine. Everyone's clear that a cocktail resurgence can't be borne on the backs of inferior base ingredients. And though some mass-market bottles get the job done, it's fun to root for small guys like ours to come in and steal the show. After all, what's liquor without a little local colour?
Mash: A mix of milled ingredients, or a "grain bill," heated in water to extract sugars that will feed added yeast to make alcohol; in beer-making, it's called the wort. In distilling, the maltose-sweetened liquid is technically called liquor at this point, though it contains no alcohol.
Proof: How much ethanol (alcohol) a liquid contains. In the U.S., proof is double the alcohol by volume (ABV), so 50-percent ABV equals 100 proof. Used as a verb, "to proof" or "proof down" a liquid means to dilute it with water, effectively reducing the ABV. "Barrel proof" is 125, or 62.5 percent alcohol.
Reflux column: Along the column that rises out of a pot still base, gadgets called "plates" are inserted to create surface tension. They allow some vapor to condense and drip down as a reflux liquid at a cooler temperature, mixing with hotter rising vapor. That ultimately increases separation efficiency and alcohol purity, and removes undesired flavors.
Staves: Long wood cuts used to form the sides of a barrel. When used by distillers, staves usually refer to wood strips placed in a barrel with the alcohol to increase surface-area exposure, expediting maturation.
Wash: The liquid that results from fermentation, wherein yeasts have eaten the sugars and produced alcohol, which is then distilled down into higher concentrates of purer alcohol.
What makes a whiskey a bourbon? At least 51 percent corn in the mash, aged in new, charred white-oak barrels. (Two or more years qualifies it as a "straight.") It's distilled to no more than 160 proof, put in a barrel at no more than 125 proof, and bottled at 80 proof or more. Must be made in the U.S.