Boulder is mainly known for its wide range of craft beer, if we’re talking boozy beverages. Since back in the 1990s, Boulder has been a hub for the art and science of beverages, but one big boom that’s happening in Boulder today (that you may not have heard as much about) is the brilliant array of distilleries.
Distilling of craft spirits is a different monster than beer-craft, and Boulder’s got a surprising number of some of the best. I mean, why not; look at the ingredients available to Boulderites wanting to concoct spirits: Rocky Mountain snowmelt, spruce tips and berries, local herbs, crops with a Boulder county history (like Longmont’s sugar beets and Boulder’s corn)… the list goes on.
Boulder had spoken regarding its favorites in this year’s Boulder Weekly Best of Boulder awards, but they’re not the only stellar distilleries that produce the best Boulder flavored spirits and cozy tasting rooms. Here’s the top 5 or so that are basically agreed upon Boulder-wide as being the best. Don’t see your favorite distillery here on our list? Tell us about your choices in the comments.
This silver medal Best of Boulder award winner for the best distillery is tucked away in the east Valmont section of warehouses and such—you know the area. Vapor Distillery is the creator of small-batch spirits called Boulder Spirits, some of which you can actually find in local liquor stores (but not all—for a complete sampling, go to their tasting room).
Vapor uses handmade copper pot stills which are designed specifically for each liquor they produce, but they are known best especially for their spectacular gins. Glacier fed water, Colorado herbs, and meticulous processing—what could be better for a delicious sip? From single malt whiskey to coffee liqueur, and from barrel aged gin called Ginskey to Pumpkin King dessert liqueur, to the cleanest and brightest vodka you’ll ever taste, it’s a great idea for an evening to go down to Vapor’s beautifully accoutered tasting room and sample the goods. And we mean good.
Winner of the gold medal Best of Boulder award for the best distillery, Spirit Hound Distillers is located in Boulder’s mountainous near-neighbor Lyons. Their first prize award winning spirits are so worth the short and beautiful drive to their tasting room.
Locally grown grains, Boulder county-specific ingredients, and a quirkily unusual array of different types of spirits make for a unique Boulder liquor experience. Spirit Hound makes the expected excellently delicious whiskey (made with Alamosa grains) and tasty gin (using local botanicals, mainly juniper), but they also make a beautiful dark Colorado sambuca, Mountain Bum Rum, and a crystal clear moonshine, which you can only taste in their Lyons tasting room, and which has won silver medals at the ACDA conference.
Not your average distillery, and not your average spirits.
Longmont microdistillery Longtucky Spirits won this year’s bronze medal Best of Boulder award for the best distillery, and it’s easy to see why.
This community-focused distillery has a robust social atmosphere in its tasting room (up in downtown Longmont), with happy hours and live music and comedy and more to make Longtucky the place to be to enjoy Boulder county spirits.
Longtucky has an unusual array of odd and delicious spirits to choose from, made from ingredients found in the landscape surrounding the distillery. A sliver rum using local sugar beets, a corn whiskey (moonshine) made from local corn, a fire whiskey with cinnamon and ginger, a spiced rum that will be tapped on June 22nd alongside a big tapping/anniversary party, and much more.
Longtucky hosts distillery tours regularly, so if you’re interested in local spirits, you could do worse than to go explore the historic building housing the distillery, and taste what honoring Longmont community tastes like.
Deviant Spirits is another distillery in the east Valmont/pearl parkway warehouse area, and its rice-based vodka is worth the price of admission. Also a great place for some Boulder nightlife, the Deviant tasting room has a hopping bar scene, poker nights, and even periodic burlesque shows!
Deviant’s small batch spirits all deviate (see what I did there) from the norm by basing all their delicious, all natural processed, spirits of all types on rice as the only grain. They’re best known for their award-winning vodkas, but their whiskey and their gin are also some of the best you’ll taste, and all rice based.
J&L Distilling Co.
J&L has recently reopened from being under renovation, and I couldn’t possibly pass up a mention of this well known Boulder distillery, that’s been around for a long time now. J&L Distilling Company believes the craft of distilling is both an art and a science, and it’s that philosophy and practice that has put Boulder distilling on the map with their award winning Sno Vodka.
That’s what they’re most known for, but pretty much anything you choose from their cozy tasting room down on east Valmont will be worth your while. Their tasting room is a great place to hang too, with frequent entertainment and food trucks there to add to the experience.
Honorary Mention: 12 Point (or is that On Point?)
Now, in the Best of Boulder awards for best distillery, the voters of Boulder had a write-in award, going to 12 point distillery, in Lafayette. Looking this mysterious best not so well kept secret up online, I find it’s called On Point? At any rate, just one look at their list of spectacular looking and award winning spirits makes me want to hop on the RTD and go find this Lafayette neighbor. I mean: lavender gin? Kona black coffee liqueur? 60 proof Amaretto? Spiced dark rum and blackberry vodka? Count me in for a tasting of all of these, in a comfortable and hip looking tasting room.