Who: Six investing families, one of which includes distiller Michael Girard
When: Jars hit retail shelves in November 2014
Where: Tasting room located at 279 Beacon Lite Road, Unit G, Monument; also for sale in local liquor stores and an increasing number of eateries. Info at 3hundreddays.com.
What: Six varieties of moonshine, with occasional specialty flavors in the tasting room. Sold in 750-milliliter Mason jars, ranging from around $19.99 to $24.99. More flavors coming soon, such as a sweet tea and a whiskey-like Centennial Wheat (fed wheat germ and aged with wood staves). See individual descriptions in "tasting notes."
As for the base moonshine, Girard distills on two 26-gallon pot stills, each with four reflux columns; he plans to move to a 100-gallon still soon. No malted grains are used, just granulated sugar that's dissolved in hot water, which moves into 26-gallon fermenting barrels. Baker's yeast is added, as is tomato paste (as nutrient) and lemon juice (for pH balance), which is all allowed to ferment for 7 to 10 days. This is a true moonshine recipe, called the "birdwatcher's recipe," he says.
After fermentation, Girard allows the wash to settle in the still's belly for a day prior to heating/distilling with electric probes for five to six hours. That yields four to five gallons at roughly 182 proof, which he proofs down to 40 proof for four of his flavors, and 100 proof for two others. Each flavor made from that clean neutral spirit gets different treatment from spices, fruits or other inputs like honey.
Why: Girard, 42, spent 22 years in the Army, 14 of those as an explosive ordnance disposal specialist. Select proceeds go toward the EOD Warrior Foundation in support of families of the fallen.
On the distiller's page of 3HDS's website, he explains his move into spirits: "I became obsessed with learning all I could about the science of [homemade explosives] production. The chemistry ... sparked my interest in the science of making alcohol. How yeast interacts with different sugars to create different tastes and then how to extract the result of that interaction and call it your own."
He also researched moonshine's lesser-known history in Western states, where such ingredients as sugar beets replaced the corn commonly used in the South.
Tasting notes: The first four of these are each 40 proof, leaving no throat burn.
• Apple Pie: 3HDS' best-seller, made with apple juice and cider, cinnamon and an undisclosed finishing sugar. "Some customers say they can taste the crust," Girard says, and they're right. It's not one-note, but like a full bite of the real thing, achieving a baked and caramelized flavor and lingering like a bite from a gooey apple pie. "This is how my Grandma used to make it," he beams. Full rounded flavor without being cloying, and dangerously easy to drink as well as easy to mix at home. Fantastic.
• Peach Cobbler: Natural fruit wouldn't extract well, but canned peaches with the syrup do the job, along with cinnamon and that same finishing sugar. It's not as peachy as the apple is apple-rich, and more crisp-like in the flavor, fittingly. Girard's reminded of his time in the Boy Scouts, making peach cobbler in a Dutch oven over the fire. "The bottom always burned, but I liked that." Hence the faint caramelized notes.
• Strawberry Lemonade: Lemon pulp floats in your glass, and concentrated juice adds ample tartness and acidity to the finish, with frozen strawberries lending color and enough flavor. Think summertime. The idea: While Girard was in Afghanistan, his wife would buy Red Robin strawberry lemonades and add her own vodka at home, to sip while they Skyped.
• Margarita Moon: Basically limeade, "with a similar premise," he says, using concentrate juice. Though less sugar's actually used post-distillation, it tastes sweeter to me, but refreshing. Drink it on the rocks with a salted and/or sugared rim.
• Colorado Honey: Jumping up to 100 proof, this beauty incorporates a honey slurry pre-bottling, using raw wildflower honey from Elizabeth, Colorado. That diluted slurry keeps the final product from feeling sticky or too syrupy in the mouth. (None of 3HDS's shines really are.) It goes down hot, then a long, lovely honey flavor lingers with sweetness and a floral quality. A future, separate Honeyshine will be more mead-like.
• Firebomb: "EOD likes to blow stuff up — so we wanted this to be a blast to the senses," he says, noting the fiery finishing flavor of those Atomic FireBall jawbreakers we ate as kids. Cinnamon sticks and oil lend color and serious bite, adding to the existing 100-proof smolder. Really bold, again highly mixable. Try the house Cinna-Bomb cocktail ($6), made with Firebomb, the Apple Pie and ginger beer.