It's handmade, I'm told, by a man named The Colonel, whose other passion is casting authentic Confederate artillery pieces. Like a leaded-glass window made by an artisan, the joins on this 220 gallon copper still show the maker's hand.
And so do the craft spirits made here, at DownSlope Distilling. My friends Matt and Andy Causey, along with their partner, Mitch Abate, dreamed a little dream and this was what it looked like. They use the finest ingredients, including a blend of New Mexico chilis and rare black peppercorns, chosen for the unique flavor they impart to the pepper vodka. Their vanilla flavored rum gets its rich aroma and subtle taste from a balanced blend of two different vanilla beans, neither of which was sufficient on its own.
I'm no connoisseur of spirits, though I know what I like. In this case, I liked everything I sampled at the tasting I attended this afternoon. But for me, witnessing the craft these distillers practice is the high point. Like a fine volume of poetry, a batch of single malt whiskey aging slowly in a French oak barrel conveys something remarkable, both on the tongue and in the appreciation of the making.
When asked why he and his partners have launched this venture in Centennial, Colorado, Andy paused a moment before replying. I know him and understand his passion for the craft of brewing and distilling, as well as his skills as a small business owner, so his answer didn't surprise me. In essence, he said, there is a movement that emphasizes things local; produce may be the most visible commodity in such discussions but it extends beyond that.
The Denver metro area is home to many fine brewpubs and already has a number of craft distillers plying their trade, so the time seemed right to step into the available space in that market, he said. People are interested in buying locally produced goods and that interest is only growing as consumers look for ways to buy smart and support the local economy.
I like that idea. Denver will never truly grow out of its short pants until it learns that the best things do not always have to be imported from far off. We have the means and the expertise to craft the finer things right here, whether it be a gourmet dining experience, flavorful local produce, or a remarkable bottle of craft distilled spirits.
I'm hardly a commercial machine but in this case, if you like a fine cocktail now and then, check your local establishment for something made locally. If you're living in the Denver area, I'd recommend any of the products from DownSlope.