Distillery turns to Colorado River for ‘distinctly Colorado whiskey’

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The first bottle in the “Headwaters Series” from Denver’s Laws Whiskey House spotlights the Colorado River. (Courtesy Laws Whiskey House)

The Colorado River is coming to your whiskey.

Last month, Denver-based Laws Whiskey House released the first bottle in its Headwaters Series Four Grain Bourbon

Each bottle the 14-year-old distillery produces in the series will spotlight one of the eight major rivers that originate in Colorado, with some of the proceeds going to Shoshone Water Right Preservation. 

For the first bottle in the series, Laws spotlighted the mighty Colorado River. The 750-ml bottle costs $85. 

The Colorado River impacts the entire Western U.S., said Peyton Meyson, chief financial officer at Laws. 

“It was the most endangered river last year and that really prompted us to move it to the forefront and to see if there was anything that we could do to help out,” Meyson said. 

The whiskey in the Headwaters Series is made differently than Laws’ regular bourbons. During the process of proofing the whiskey down, Laws captured 10 gallons of water from the Colorado River via buckets. They then filtered it and used it to proof down the whiskey in their Headwaters Series, distilling about 1,500 bottles. 

“We normally use the Eldorado Springs water up front and then it ages for four to seven years,” said founder Al Laws, a 54-year-old fly fisherman. 

“Then while it’s in the barrel, it goes up 120 proof, so to bring it back down to 95 or 100 proof where we like to drink it, we have to add in water at the end,” Laws said. “That’s where we added in the water from the Colorado River.” 

While the Colorado River water may not necessarily affect the flavor of the bourbon, it will change the mouthfeel of the whiskey. “All the unique minerality, flavor compounds, and components of the Colorado River are going to be impacting this whiskey,” Meyson said. 

The series took nine months and was a significant investment for Laws to develop. The distillery had to ensure that the minerality of the Colorado River did not negatively affect the taste of the whiskey. 

The business is planning on picking a river each year and working with a local charity. Laws and Meyson are not sure which river to spotlight for next year.

“Kentucky has been making whiskey for 100 years. We’re not trying to reinvent the exact same thing,” Meyson said. “This incredible state grows a lot of grain and has unique features that contribute to some pretty cool and very rare flavor profiles. We are trying to highlight that and make distinctly Colorado whiskey.”

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