Susan Price , WOMEN@FORBES
If just the mention of rum calls to mind Caribbean beaches, Karen Hoskin has some good reasons why you might think of the Colorado Rockies instead. That surprising location, says the founder of Montanya Distillers, is pretty ideal for making rum. “People make assumptions about where rum comes from and why, but as soon as we explain how it is made and why it makes sense, they’re interested,” she says.
Montanya is in Crested Butte, Co., where the high altitude positively affects almost every aspect of fermenting, distilling and aging rum. Rum is about 85% water, and Montanya’s comes from an aquifer below the town fed by clean snowmelt and spring water. Montanya further ups the quality of its rums by using only non-GMO sugar cane sourced from family farmers in Louisiana. Many distillers in the islands and South America uses oak barrels from Kentucky’s whiskey makers, while Montanya gets its barrels right in Colorado. “We’re closer to the source, and a fresher barrel makes a tastier rum,” she says.
Montanya makes three types of rum: an aged white rum, a medium dark, and a longer-aged limited edition. They’re sold through distributors in 42 states and seven countries, online through Drizly, and at Montanya’s tasting room, where the staff creates innovative cocktails far from the oversweet concoctions of beach resorts. The 23-employee operation has managed 20% growth every year, says Hoskin.
From the outset, Hoskin was committed to making Montanya a sustainable company. “Everything we do is zero waste. We are 100% wind powered and carbon offset,” she says. “I take it pretty deep.” Sugar cane is quickly processed in a single mill that is net positive, contributing cleaner water and energy to the grid. “It never goes to a refinery, which was a huge goal for me because that takes everything good out,” says Hoskin. “Refineries usually add four or five chemicals as well to make the color uniform.” Visitors to Montanya’s tasting room will find only glass, fully recycled paper products, reusable or compostable items. (Hoskin’s commitment to zero waste led her to recently co-found Zoetica, a company that makes it convenient with stylish reusable containers.)