Like many beautiful things in life, making great whiskey takes patience and time. Spirit Hound Distillers’ latest release, a five-year-old Colorado rye whiskey, proudly bears the fruits of that expectation. The rich, flavorful whiskey continues the distillery’s heritage of premium spirits with an air of accessibility.
Entering the bottle at a fiery 90 proof, the Rye starts with a rich, clean nose that is both sharp and refined. A lush mouthfeel helps carry notes of warm caramel and chocolate on the front, with the spice and pepper of the rye resting on the back of the tongue. Aging five years gives the whiskey the opportunity to mellow with American white oak, calming the aggressive temperament of a younger whisky.
None of this should come as a surprise to the producer who took weekly block‘s Best Distillery for several consecutive years. As the collective volume of alcohol by volume from Colorado liquor producers continues to soar in 2022, with hundreds of breweries, distilleries, cider houses, mead makers and winemakers vying for storage space in stores liquor stores and bars, the release of whiskey with a significant barrel age is a good sign.
Using grains grown by the Alamosa-based Colorado Malting Company, Spirit Hound whiskeys began releasing one barrel at a time in the summer of 2015. Around this time, the distillery added barrels of bourbon and rye to the aging list. Complementing their portfolio, the Lyon distillery produces vodka, gin and rum, sambuca, and coffee liqueur, making it almost a one-stop-shop for a home bar.
According to Chief Distiller and Co-Founder Craig Engelhorn, Spirit Hound was granted the 32nd license to produce distilled spirits in the state of Colorado, in 2012. August 5 of this year will mark a full decade of sweet, sweet whiskey. copper stills from Spirit Hound. More than a hundred barrels later, the supply is regular and the flavors are there for the essential Lyonnais.
Engelhorn and his team kept increasing production, to the point of running out of space in their cellar. Expansion plans are on the horizon, adding to the existing space for production, storage and filling the tasting room inside and out. Convinced that Spirit Hound’s presence is known in Boulder County, the next goal is statewide coverage and a huge marketing push that will make it a household name, says Engelhorn.
“When you stand in front of a liquor store shelf and are faced with a huge wall of Colorado craft liquors, how do you know one is better than the other?” said Engelhorn. “Our goal this year is to get in front of consumers.”
This includes promotions with Planet Bluegrass and RTD buses wrapped in Spirit Hound badges, as well as print and radio ads. Spirit production is already growing in anticipation of new marketing campaigns, says Engelhorn, but the distillery won’t forget its roots anytime soon.
With warmer weather inevitable and the world settling into the new normal that COVID-19 has brought, Spirit Hound is once again ready for full tasting rooms and patios. To celebrate, a series of tasting rooms called Science & Spirits — what Engelhorn describes as a college lecture with cocktails — is making a comeback on March 24.
After movie nights, game nights and flag football in the garden, Engelhorn said the educational series was by far his most popular event. Previous versions of Science & Spirits have brought clever cocktail pairings to go along with the educational component, including ice spheres designed to look like the moon for astronomy discussions.
“The pre-COVID room (the tasting) was full of people. We are restarting it and we are very excited,” says Engelhorn. “People are clearly hungry for knowledge.”
Even if lectures on earth science or astronomy aren’t your thing, readers should still plan a visit to Lyon’s tasting room to sample a list of creative cocktails and grab a bite to eat in Americana Cluck-n-Burger high-end food truck parked right out front.
If the last 10 years and this last batch of rye is any indicator, Spirit Hound Distillers will be as well known in Colorado as Stranahan’s. One of the next releases planned by Engelhorn will be a bond-bottled rye whisky. Aged for a minimum of four years and released at 100 degrees, a bond-bottled whiskey requires every aspect of the spirit to be distilled in-house.