Get your rocks glasses ready, spirit drinkers. Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey has made its way back to Georgia after a five-year hiatus and experts say it might even be better now than it was before.
Stranahan’s is an all-malt whiskey made with the distiller’s unique yeast strain and blended with Rocky Mountain water. It comes in at 94 proof, a 47 percent ABV, and is some of the smoothest American craft whiskey out there—made in small batches, aged in charred, white oak barrels, and bottled by a rotating group of dedicated volunteers.
Ryan Stotz of H&F Bottle Shop is happy to have the good stuff back in stock. “Stranahan’s is doing it right—they do their own ferment, mash, and distilling on-site,” he says. “And it’s good. That’s the most important thing people should know.”
I chatted with Stranahan’s master distiller Rob Dietrich about why the popular spirit went away, their distilling process, and what makes their whiskey so special.
Stranahan’s was everywhere, and then suddenly, it was gone. What happened?
We never thought we’d run out of whiskey. We were in stores nationwide, but we have a strong fan base in Denver and throughout Colorado. Demand was so high out-of-state that people couldn’t get their hometown whiskey. That didn’t sit right with us. We decided to pull back our distribution so we could stock up. That was the end of 2010.
How much are you producing now?
I started in 2006, two years after Stranahan’s launched. Back then, we were at three barrels a week [or about 95 gallons]. Today, we’re upwards of 50 barrels [1,575 gallons] per week .
How do you describe Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey to people who are more familiar with the Southern stuff?
Stranahan’s is 100 percent malt barley whiskey. We not competing with the bourbon market—this is its own flavor, Rocky Mountain style. It’s similar to a single malt scotch.
What’s your distillation process like?
We’re hands-on, 24-hours per day. We start at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning and go until Friday night, a six-day fermentation. We marry our own barrels together, so every batch is a two-year, three-year, four-year, and five-year whiskey. Our fermentation process is closed, so we don’t have to worry about wild bacteria. The whiskey rests in white oak barrels for no less than two years (which gives us the designation as a whiskey).
What impact does Rocky Mountain Water have on the flavor?
Our whiskey is 47 percent alcohol, but the rest is water—it makes all the difference. We use El Dorado Springs water, which won third place in a world water competition (yes, that’s a thing). It tastes great, we get all this snow melt, and natural minerals.
It’s so smooth and drinkable.
The cool thing about Stranahan’s is that it’s 94 proof, and at 90 or higher, you can retain so much flavor. We get a lot of tasting notes: caramel, vanilla, piped tobacco, some chocolate, and some banana.