Stranahans New American Whiskey
Stranahans Colorado Whiskey has found itself in a pretty bright spotlight. The poster child for the next wave of New American Whiskey, this relatively small Colorado Distillery has more attention and buzz paid to it than almost any other craft distiller in America.
Like most great spirit companies, Stranahans has a great back story.
The story of Stranahans Colorado Whiskey goes something like this. Firefighter Jess Graber responded to a fire in a barn belonging to George Stranahan, a long-time liquor connoisseur.
After the fire settled, the two discovered a shared passion for the Colorado outdoors and fine whiskey and Stranahans Colorado Whiskey was born. They developed a recipe for the smoothest, most flavorful whiskey in the world using the purity of their mountain surroundings to make one of the best whiskeys around.
Its a nice story, the kind that legendary spirits come from. The reality was, of course, much harder and less glamourous. Distiller Jake Norris had been distilling since he was very young. First obsessed with creating alternative fuel, Jake got the spirits distilling bug and made almost anything and everything that he could with a still. With Stranahans, his vision was to produce a whiskey that preserved as much of the core character of the base grain without the symphony of flavors that tend to accompany it. That grain was a 100% malted barley, sourced from around Colorado in a very deliberate attempt to create a specific terrior for the whiskey.
Born Out Of The Ashes
In 1998, George Stranahans barn in Woody Creek, Colorado caught fire. George, owner of Flying Dog Brewery, was assisted in his extinguishing attempts by neighbor, and amateur whiskey maker, Jess Graber. When the two men realized there was nothing they could do to stop the blaze, they sat back and began talking. As luck would have it, Jess and George found common ground: a love of Colorados great outdoors and whiskey. With Jesses not-exactly-legal experimentations in the backwoods of Woody Creek, and Georges brewery, an idea was born. The two postulated that perhaps if they distilled some of Georges beer, they might come up with something unique.
Stranahans Distillery in Denver, CO / Photo Credit: Stranahans
The next six years were a flurry of activity. Jesse fought with the TTB to legalize distilling in Denver, specifically right next to Georges downtown Flying Dog Brewery. With the space next to the brewery open, Jess set up shop, piping in wash from the brewery through a skylight. On April 9, 2004 they filled the first barrel, vowing to leave it for a minimum of two years. In the early years, Jess shopped the whiskey around to local bars and liquor stores in his 1938 Chevy truck. The double clutch vehicle, once owned by John Wayne, still sits in front of the distillery today.
We Have Hybrid Stills Says Max Rutherford Our Tour Guide At Stranahans Whiskey Distillery In Denver Colorado Pot Stills Are Inefficient So We Have Pot Stills With A Column Still On Top Theyre Made By Vendome And We Had To Persuade Them To Make Them For Us It Was Like Going To Ferrari And Saying: Can You Make Us A Go
Distillery tours can sometimes be dull, depending on your guide, but Max is a real star. Hes friendly and knowledgeable, but most of all hes funny. He makes the group laugh constantly, so much so that he should consider a career in stand-up. However, as well as being a tour guide for Stranahans he also plays in a band called Hi-Fi Gentry.
Denver has more music venues than any other city in the USA, and that includes Nashville and Austin, he tells us proudly.
The Mile High City isnt short of distilleries either, including Leopold Brothers which I toured on a previous visit to Colorados capital. Stranahans is the oldest in the city, though. In fact its the oldest of over 50 distilleries in the state, Max explains.
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Stranahans Colorado Whiskey: Review And Tasting Notes
My bottle of Stranahans Colorado Whiskey, like every other bottle of Stranahans Colorado Whiskey, arrived with a tin cup over the cork on top. But unlike other bottles of Stranahans, my tin cup wouldnt come off. It was stuck, and I wanted it off.
I pulled, I pried, I yanked. I tried using knives and shivs and needle-nose pliers. And then I tried again . Nothing worked. That cup was like a musclebound security guard protecting the treasure within the bottle. And I hated him for it. I wanted the good stuff inside.
Luckily, the folks at Stranahans were very kind they sent me a replacement bottle and had me ship back the impenetrable one. They said, We run into this issue from time to time, seems to be slight differences in the bottle/cap manufacturing. Fair enough. As long as I finally got to open a bottle of Stranahans.
In any case, the combination of the malted barleys and the Colorado water and the American oak makes for a damn fine whiskey, one of the most simply enjoyable whiskies Ive opened up in a long time. On to the notes
Stranahans Colorado WhiskeyTasting Dates: January 4 25, 2015Thirsty South Rating: Excellent*
Take off that tin cup cap, and pour some Stranahans in. Take a whiff. Its kinda subtle, reminds me of cereal. Ever have Quaker Brown Sugar Oat Squares? Thats what this is, with alcohol . Theres a bit of warm wood, cedar even. But mostly sweet toasty grain.
Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey Auction To Support The Colorado State Fire Fighters Foundation Auction Terms
Open only to legal residents of the United States, age 21 or older. Employees, officers or directors, or any immediate family members or household members of each such individual, of any of Proximo Spirits, Inc., The Colorado State Fire Fighters Foundation, their respective parent companies, subsidiaries, divisions, and affiliates , as well as third party agencies , and, as applicable, alcohol beverage licensees CANNOT participate in the Auction.
Bids will be accepted beginning at December 5, 2020 at 12:01 AM Eastern Standard Time and concluding at December 10, 2020 at 11:59 PM EST .
3. HOW TO BID:
Go to snowflakeauction.stranahans.com . Confirm that you are a legal U.S. resident and 21 years of age or older, as prompted, to access the description of the Stranahan’s® Colorado Whiskey offered by Proximo Spirits, Inc. for sale via auction . IT IS THE SOLE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE USER TO CAREFULLY REVIEW AND FAMILIARIZE HIM/HERSELF WITH THE ITEM DESCRIPTION BEFORE PLACING A BID.
If you’re interested in placing a bid on Whiskey:
4. ABOUT BIDDING:
A bid is a legally binding contract: DO NOT BID UNLESS YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PURCHASING WHISKEY AND YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO TAKE POSSESSION OF WHISKEY AT THE DESIGNATED LOCATION IN DENVER, COLORADO. IF YOU PLACE THE WINNING BID, THE WHISKEY WILL NOT BE SHIPPED TO YOU.
Use of automated methods or programs for bidding is prohibited.
5. WINNING BID/ITEM SALE:
6. DONATION BY PROXIMO SPIRITS:
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Stranahan’s Mountain Angel 10
As a one time only release in 2020, Stranahan’s released Mountain Angel 10-Year-Old whiskey. This was the brandâs oldest, rarest release to date. They say it is the first and only American single malt of its kind aged 10 years in new charred American oak casks with less than 500 bottles available at 47.3% ABV.
Stranahan’s Blue Peak Whiskey
In 2020, Stranahanâs added Blue Peak to its line of Rocky Mountain whiskeys. In this process, they couple the high altitude distillation process and aging methods with a Solera finish, a maturation process typically used in wine, resulting in a rich and mellow whiskey. This is bottled at 43% ABV and is said the lowest-priced Stranahan’s introduced to date
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Stranahans Colorado Whiskey: Award
Colorado produces dozens and dozens of delicious craft beers and an ever-growing list of top-quality wines. But it also boasts a bevy of small distilleries.
One is Stranahans Colorado Whiskey, an award-winning spirit distilled in Denver, which recently moved to a new location at 200 S. Kalamath St. After five years in downtown Denver, Stranahans could barely produce enough whiskey to meet consumer demands. The new location, an old brewery closed years ago, is home to not only the distillery, but a restaurant as well.
Defining American Single Malt Whiskey
Rob and the ASMWC have their work cut out for them in establishing this category. Theyre starting to listen, Rob says of the TTB. It really starts at the ground level of on-premise accounts, the bars and restaurants, and educating them to create an American Single Malt category on their menu. I call that the foot soldier battle, and then we have our larger battle which is establishing this as a real category with the government.
The ASMWC defines American Single Malt Whiskey as such:
The whiskey must be made of 100% barley.
It should be distilled entirely at one distillery, mashed, distilled and matured in the United States of America
It should be matured in oak casks of a capacity not exceeding 700 liters.
It should distilled to no more than 160 proof and bottled at 80 proof or more .
Stranahans Whiskeys / Photo Credit: Stranahans
The word about American Single Malt is spreading and it has gained legions of fans. Over the last 13 years, Stranahans has transitioned from a relatively unknown brand to one that people know internationally.
In the beginning no one knew we existed, says Rob. To see where weve come from with our humble beginnings, thats what is most impressive to me.
Thirsty for some more American Single Malt whiskeys?
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Stranahans Whiskey Distillery Tour
This was the first distillery to open in Colorado after prohibition. It was founded by Jess Graber, who came from Woody Creek. He was friends with Hunter S. Thompson. Jess was also a firefighter, which is weirdly where our story starts. Stranahan was the name of a guy whose barn Jess couldnt save from burning down. Stranahan was into home brewing and Jess had plans to open a distillery, so he asked Stranahan for advice.
Stranahan said: My barn just burned down and you want to talk about distilling?? Jess decided that if he made a whiskey he would call it Stranahans, both after this guy and because he thought it was a good name for a whiskey.
Unlike other distilleries which have a diverse range of spirits, Stranahans focuses on American single-malt whiskey. They only use malted barley, 90% of which is grown in Colorado, and have their own proprietary strain of yeast.
Yeast produces two things, says Max, one of which is CO2. We dont need CO2 as were not making fizzy whiskey. That sounds kind-of weird. But we do want the other thing that yeast makes alcohol!
Max explains the distilling process, telling us the difference between the heads, the tails and the hearts of the distilled spirit. Stranahans only uses the hearts.
Im not saying you wont get a hangover from Stranahans if you drink enough of it, but weve taken out all the nasty stuff so you wont go blind and die, which is not good for publicity.