Given the pace of the craft-spirit explosion, 3-year-old Distillery 291 has known it wouldn't remain the Springs' only spirit producer. Since April, we've heard of four new outfits. Having already reported on Axe and the Oak, and MountainShine, here's a look at the other two newbies.
• Lee Spirits Co. (leespirits.com) has obtained its federal license, and aims to produce a 90-proof dry gin. Locally born-and-raised cousins Nick and Ian Lee, both engineers by training, are behind it, having formerly launched an Internet software company that left them creatively unfulfilled, says Nick, who's 34. (Ian is 29.)
The two initially received mentoring from 291's Michael Myers. Next came a two-day distilling workshop six months ago at Centennial's Downslope Distilling and then all the paperwork, which takes them up to an opening within the next couple of months.
All they'll say about the location is that it's in "greater downtown," but Nick's quite clear that the business' focus will be on its tasting room: "We want to be a local hot-spot for nightlife," he says, noting "pre-Prohibition-style and more modern cocktails," all built around their gin.
Though spirit makers such as Denver's Leopold Bros., make gin, Nick believes that Lee Spirits will be the only state distillery producing it solely.
• Monument will soon be awash in 3 Hundred Days of Shine moonshine thanks to 3 Hundred Days Distilling (279 Beacon Lite Road, Unit G). It's a collaborative effort among six investing families, who include the owner of Denver's Whiskey Bar, plus 42-year-old distiller Michael Girard. Flavors including apple pie, peach cobbler, strawberry-lemonade and sweet iced tea will be sold on-site in 750-milliliter Mason jars at 40-proof for less than $20.
Girard's backstory is what gifts heart to the hooch: Of his 22 years in the Army, 14 were spent as an explosive ordnance disposal specialist. (He retired this past May.)
"In your down time you have to find a hobby," he says, explaining how he began researching distilling several years ago. "The chemistry side intrigued me because of my job in Iraq, when the homemade explosives thing started and was hurting a lot of my friends and co-workers."
The Army taught him how to make and "deal with" explosives that can be made out of common household items, and the focus on how ingredients interact, fit well with a study of such factors as how yeasts and sugars interact. ('Drop booze, not bombs' ... I can envision it spray-painted under a highway overpass now ...)
The Montana-born Girard notes that moonshine was as prolific during Prohibition here as it was in the South, with sugar beets in place of corn. At 3HDD, he'll use Colorado honey and granulated white sugar as his wash, plus ingredients gleaned from old recipes and modern cookbooks.