Rather than close out this series of reviews of Boulder Spirits expressions by talking more about that distillery specifically, I think it would be more appropriate to talk briefly about the state of Colorado distilling as a whole.
Colorado now has well in excess of 100 distilleries with many of them producing whisky. This is an astonishing number given its population of just under 6 million.
The meteorologist in me (my actual job) suggests that the weather and climate is perfect for the raw ingredients that make distilling possible. The glacier water, the arid climate, a wealth of geographical diversity, good soil for grains. All of these factors make this such a tempting destination for prospective and current distillers.
As you peruse the aisles in your local liquor store, you’ll come across names like Stranahan’s, Boulder Spirits, Tin Cup and Breckenridge. In Alberta specifically, Woody Creek and Distillery 291 will soon be hitting the shelves. All of these hail from Colorado.
This being the Wild West, there’s a ton of experimentation being done in these distilleries in ways that more traditional whisky producing regions like Kentucky might shy away from. It is to those states like Colorado the we should look to in the next chapter of American whisky production.
Although Alberta, the province I live in, is a lot further north than Colorado, we share a lot of the characteristics that make whisky production desirable. It’s tempting to take Colorado as an example as to what spirits production might look like in another 5-10 years in this province.
Finally, let’s return to the topic at hand shall we? Boulder Spirits Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a unique mashbill of 51% corn, 5% rye and 44% malted barley. It is matured for a minimum of three years in #3 char new American oak barrels and bottled at 42%.
Nose: There’s a bit of BBQ character to this in the form of sweet smoke and sauce slathered over pork ribs. It’s got to be the combination of the high barley mashbill and the virgin oak that is giving me these notes. The corn note comes in the form of regular corn flakes cereal. Over time, those BBQ notes fade and I get more bourbon characteristics. Rich caramel, fresh ripe cherries, vanilla, cinnamon and allspice. I’m also getting a little bit of barley sugar candy and some young maltiness.
Pallet: The entry is a little thin, but quite flavourful. I’m honestly having a little trouble picking out some of the notes here due to how unique this mashbill is. It’s quite sweet, that’s for sure. Malted cereal, light brown sugar and cherry bubblegum. The development is quite light on the spice (cinnamon mostly) due to the low rye content, but, along with the oak, there’s enough to make the tongue tingle a bit. Especially when I smack my lips, I get some roasted peanuts and a tiny bit of orange zest. A bit of ginger and cracked white pepper comes in at the end.
Finish: It’s a little bit on the short side, but that’s not surprising given the low abv. The spicing fades away fairly quickly, but the ginger remains a little longer. That mixed with the sweet notes that carry over from the development give me a faint ginger snap cookie note, similar to what I get on their single malt. This helps to balance out the oak bitterness.
With water added…
On the nose, I get a lot more oak compared to without water being added. There is also a faint salted liquorice note in the background. I get a little more brown sugar as well. As with the other Boulder expressions, there is a lot more oak with water. The difference here is that there is enough sweetness to balance things out. Strong ginger snap cookie vibe on the development for sure. I love how I get this on some of their expressions. The finish is a tiny bit drier, but that ginger cookie note sticks around for quite a while, lengthening out the finish considerably.
This was pretty good without water, but I much preferred it with. Water brought out a little more of the oak to cut through the sweetness and it drank much higher than its 84 proof.
This is great to sip neat, but it would be very interesting to try in a cold weather cocktail such as a hot toddy. I feel those ginger snap notes would really shine in that one.
Down the road, I would really like to review their barrel aged gin, called the Ginsky, which is aged in virgin oak barrels. For now, the five whiskies I’ve reviewed should hopefully help to give you a broad overview of just how good young Colorado whisky can be.