Why we make high-altitude rum

Sometimes people are surprised to learn where we make Montanya rum: 9,000 feet above sea level in a small mountain town in the Colorado Rockies. Isn’t rum made for beaches? Not always. There’s a time-honored tradition of distilling rum in mountain places like Guatemala, Colombia and Panama that predates even Caribbean rum. The mountains offer so many benefits to the quality and sustainability of rum production, we hardly know where to begin.

And then there’s Colorado. In Crested Butte, we are surrounded by wilderness areas and National Forest. During the winter, we are literally at the “end of the road” (during summer, the only other ways out are dirt roads and rugged trails). That brings a dedicated crew of fans to visit and ski, but has so many benefits too.

We were thrilled when our local ski area, Crested Butte Mountain Resort, and Mevyn Creative teamed up to capture so beautifully the reasons we live and distill here:

(Not playing? Visit YouTube ). It’s not everyday your friends ask to tell your story for you, and their interest inspired us to answer a few questions we hear a lot at Montanya:

Can you make rum in the mountains?

Montanya Rums.jpg

Yes! Many people associate rum with the Caribbean, but that's just part of rum's story. Distillers have been making exceptional rum in the mountains for hundreds of years. The barrels at Guatemala’s Ron Zacapa distillery, for example, are carried into the mountains to age because the temperature fluctuations from day to night force more rum in and out of the barrels’ oak pores. The result? Smoother, more delicious rum.

In Crested Butte, we take advantage of similar temperature fluctuations without all the uphill trekking (though we do like to climb peaks on the weekends…). We have great water, too. Not many people realize that water accounts for 85% of the distilling process and 60% of what is in the bottle. In Crested Butte, our water comes from crisp, clean snowmelt and spring water that charges an aquifer 350 feet below town. It’s the perfect pH for bottling!

Crested Butte Mountain, which sits over the town of Crested Butte.

Crested Butte Mountain, which sits over the town of Crested Butte.

Why Crested Butte?

As the video captures, there are so many reasons to love CB. Natural beauty, recreation, great schools, a supportive community… the list goes on. For owners Karen and Brice Hoskin, the town is a lot like Silverton, CO, where they started Montanya—only there are five times more people, a better infrastructure for business, and for their sons, there were more than three girls in their classes at school. (Hey, it’s the little things that matter.)

How does mountain living affect the way you do business?

At Zoetica, everyday items help you live waste free.

At Zoetica, everyday items help you live waste free.

It comes down to a single word: stewardship. Living in a place like Crested Butte inspires us to take care of our home—and the wider world. This commitment affects every aspect of the company, from how we power our distillery to how we dispose of our waste. We’re 100% wind powered, offset our carbon production, and we compost. Our bottle supplier is certified Cradle to Cradle. And we support two social entrepreneurship companies that actively work to reduce carbon emissions and pollution worldwide: Ganesha Stove Project and Zoetica.

The Ganesha Cookstove Project provides low-income women with powerful, easy-to-use stoves.

The Ganesha Cookstove Project provides low-income women with powerful, easy-to-use stoves.

Most recently, in 2018 we became a certified B Corporation, a designation given to companies that meet verified standards of business, from social and environmental performance to public transparency. We’re glad to be part of a movement that believes business can be a force for good.

Why is stewardship important to you?

In the words of CEO Karen Hoskin, there is no planet B.  We don't get a chance to realize, like many rum distillers have after 100 years in the family business, that they have polluted and ruined the natural environment they loved.  Some companies have harvested their sugar cane in a way that has caused irreparable harm to and high mortality for the workers they employ. We wanted to do it right from the start. It has slowed our growth to have a triple bottom line—environment, people and profit—but we couldn't do it any other way and still sleep at night.  We aren't perfect, but we are chipping away at the work every day.

Want to learn more about how to make rum or distilling in the mountains? We’ve packed our website full of information: give it a look!