Want to know more about how to make rum? Here’s an inside look at the distilling process at Montanya Distillers.
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Want to know more about how to make rum? Here’s an inside look at the distilling process at Montanya Distillers.
Yes, we know that our stills are “inanimate” objects. But you can’t spend 10+ years making rum without realizing that they do, in fact, have personality. We named ours Bellatrix and Bellisima, and you might go so far as to say they represent common tensions (and misunderstandings) between boomers and millenials. Read on to meet them personally!
The Altitude Equation Gives Montanya Rum A Distinct Flavor from Colorado Rockies
Colorado’s local rum hand-crafted at 8,900 feet in Crested Butte
CRESTED BUTTE, Colorado (December 12, 2014) — Located at 8,900 feet in the mountain town of Crested Butte, Colorado, Montanya Distillers has been working for 6 years to master the art of handcrafting high altitude rum. The key is not only in the ingredients that go into Montanya’s Oro and Platino rums—Crested Butte mountain water, yeast, Louisiana raw sugar and a tiny touch of Durango-based Honeyville honey at bottling time—but also what happens when making the spirit at elevation.
The Mountain Rum Difference
“Many people are surprised that we make rum in the mountains because they think rum is an island tradition and a Caribbean phenomenon. Yet, there has been a rich tradition of mountain rum distilling and altitude rum for a very long time,” says Karen Hoskin, president and co-owner of Montanya Distillers. “Temperatures in mountainous climates fluctuate daily and allow the flavors in the barrel to meld differently than they do at sea level.”
Guatemalan mountainsFrom 1948 on, Guatemala has been a world leader in mountain rum, taking the rums made there into the mountains up to 7,500 feet to age. Also, rum distillers in Colombia have been crafting rum at the north end of the Andes mountain range, surrounded by volcanoes such as Nevado del Ruiz rising to 17,500 feet, Hoskin notes.
However, there are even more compelling reasons to make rum in the mountains of Colorado. “Our water, which we use in the fermenting and proofing process, is incredibly plentiful and outrageously pure. We pull it from an aquifer in Crested Butte that percolates through a glacial moraine 350 feet under our facility, adding the flavor of many minerals. It is a distiller’s dream water,” Hoskin says.
Montanya’s fermentations are chilled by the water coming naturally cold from the from the well at their facility, and their distillations boil at a lower temperature at high elevation, allowing for better control of temperature in the still and providing more flavor in the final distillate. Heat from the stills is used to heat Montanya’s buildings in the chilly seasons, and fluctuating temperatures (20-40 degrees in a single day) in Crested Butte allows the rum to move in and out of the pores of the barrel, resulting in much more exposure to the oak. “The wood is where the magic of aging happens.” Hoskin emphasizes. “Our rum ages in American oak casks that previously held whiskey made in Denver.”
Colorado’s Local Rum
Established in 2008, Montanya is the only distillery in Colorado focusing exclusively on rum. It has become the state’s local rum with a growing client base that includes the likes of five-star hotels The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and The Little Nell in Aspen and eateries and bars such as Ginger Café in Crested Butte, Bin 707 in Grand Junction, Cypress Café in Durango, Justice Snow’s in Aspen, and The Hornet, Paramount Café, and several Snooze locations in Denver. In addition, the new Cooper Lounge at Denver’s recently reopened Union Station has created The Paradise Express 12 with Montanya rum, and Crested Butte Mountain Resort ski area has named Montanya its official rum.
Restaurants like Jill’s Restaurant & Bistro at St. Julien Hotel & Spa in Boulder and Modis in Breckenridge are tapping the distinct flavors of Montanya rum not only in cocktails, but chef specials and desserts as well. Teryn Guadagnoli of Modis Restaurant and Bar in Breckenridge sings Montanya’s praises. "Montanya rums have become a staple on our menu at Modis, from classic rum cocktails like the Papa Doble to modern interpretations on our specials list. We use the Oro rum in dessert sauces in our kitchen because it adds so much complexity to chocolate and caramel."
Montanya has greatly expanded its own culinary program at their Tasting Room in Crested Butte, adding pairings to their already popular cocktail menu. The new program focuses on appetizers and small plates, with many featuring Montanya rum and other ingredients sourced from Colorado companies and farmers. A sampling of dishes featured on this winter’s menu that feature Montanya rum includes Seared Scallops with Fresh Mango, Avocado and Montanya Oro Rum Glaze and a Vanilla Parfait with fresh berries drenched in Montanya Rum Crème. The menu changes seasonally to take advantage of the many products grown and made locally in the region.
Montanya also has started using its rum in a line of house-made bitters and rum truffles that can be purchased only in the Crested Butte Tasting Room, further expanding the ways customers can enjoy the locally made spirit.
The Montanya Story
In 2008, Karen and her husband Brice Hoskin established Montanya Distillers in Silverton, Colorado, where a Montanya Distillers Tasting Room continues to operate. As the distillery expanded in 2011, the Hoskins moved production to Crested Butte and opened a Tasting Room downtown. At its current location at 212 Elk Ave., Montanya offers an extensive artisan cocktail and small plates menu, outdoor seating on front and back patios in the warmer seasons, and live music on a regular basis. The Tasting Room is available for some private events, and Montanya also offers rum cocktail catering and guest bartending for off-site events.
The American Distilling Institute named Montanya Distillers, one of the few female-owned and operated distilleries in the United States, 2013 Craft Distiller of the Year. Montanya will release a three-year aged rum to the Colorado market in June 2015.
Now sold in 39 states and 5 countries overseas, Montanya recently announced the newest way to give its rums as gifts through the online spirits gift giving company www.1-877-Spirits. Oro and Platino rums are available by the bottle, and prices include gift delivery. The 877Spirits website also features a gift basket called “The Colorado Cocktail Kit,” which includes a bottle of Montanya Oro dark rum, a wood muddler, cocktail cherries, simple syrup and bitters traveler’s set presented in a classy wooden chest. Visit www.1-877-spirits.com/category/montanya-rum/MR95. Prices listed on the site include gift packaging and shipping or delivery nationwide.
At the Tasting Room in Crested Butte, customers may also create their own custom gift baskets using Montanya Rum and house-made bitters, truffles, cocktail ingredients, as well as bar tools from their well-stocked mercantile.
All of Montanya's sugar cane is grown within an 81 square mile region by a co-op of 75 family farmers west of Lake Ponchatrain, 90 minutes outside of New Orleans. This video is a travel journal from Montanya Distillers' President (Karen Hoskin) and Vice President (Brice Hoskin) and their recent trip to see the fields during harvest, to watch the milling of the non-GMO, family-grown sugar cane into the raw sugar which Montanya uses to make our rum. We also spent time with the 6th generation family that owns the mill and owns much of the land upon which the cane is grown.
It is actually very unusual to be able to buy natural, non-GMO, raw sugar before it is sent to the refinery and before it becomes part of the commodity market, which makes tracable sourcing harder to achieve.
Here is a video about our sugar cane:
Montanya Distillers is excited to announce that we are moving our distillery and tasting room 1/2 a block down the road in Crested Butte. 212 Elk Avenue.
We have managed to score ourselves one of the coolest buildings in Crested Butte. We know that everyone thought our last building was very cool, and so did we. But for a long laundry list of reasons, including our long term growth interests, it doesn't make sense for us to stay there. Mainly, we discovered that this was a building we could never own (too expensive to buy, renovate and maintain) and because it is 150 years old, we dealt with a lot of little challenges daily. Plus the rent was going up steeply (20% with each renewal). It was a fabulous two year run there, but we found ourselves ready for newer construction with all the benefits it brings.
We will continue to have our bays in Riverland, 2 miles down the road, for aging, bottling, shipping and receiving, and we have secured the option to expand into the bay next door when it is time. When we need to expand our distilling operation and add stills, we will do it in Riverland.
The new location can't be beat. We are moving ourselves onto the downtown core block in Crested Butte. The building is a perfect size, with gorgeous indoor and outdoor seating for our tasting room as well as a beautiful bar. It has tons of light streaming in. As the distillers among us will appreciate, it has a high tech fire suppression system, floor drains, concrete floors, an alley behind for truck access, and space on site for a dumpster (none of which we had at 130 Elk Avenue.) This building is also an architectural marvel (we seem to gravitate toward those) by CB architect Andrew Hadley with beautiful exposed beams and high ceilings. :)
We could say so much more, but pictures speak louder. Please visit the blog link above to get a very quick glimpse. The scale is hard to capture with a phone. :) Our lease doesn't start until November 15th, so it doesn't look like Montanya yet - our photographer will come in as soon as it is ready and we will share more photos. We are currently closed to the public and moving out of the Powerhouse by Oct 31st. We ramped up distilling for a period of time in advance of our move to assure that this month of transition won't cause us to get behind on production. We plan to reopen to the public in early December. Meanwhile, our rums are available in Crested Butte at Mountain Spirits, Acme Liquors, The Last Steep, The Wooden Nickel, The Ginger Cafe, The West Side Bistro, and many more local haunts in CB and Gunnison as well. There is a list on our website of all of our retail locations in the state of Colorado, and our distribution info nationwide.
Feel free to spread the word. We will undoubtedly overlook letting many people know directly, and for that we apologize in advance.
DISTILLING, WEBSITE ADDITIONS, BOTTLING, and MUSIC!
It has been an exciting year at Montanya Distillers. Not only did we grow 58.5% overall in 2012, but we also managed to put away more Oro and Platino rum than ever before into aging stock. We began a Montanya Añejo rum which will be longer-aged than any rum we have aged/bottled before. We are not sure when it will be ready, but we'll let everyone know if and when we plan to bottle it.
We continue to enhance our distilling process for efficiency and quality. Most recently, Brice Hoskin created a new heat exchange process by which we are able to use the spent wash from our stills to warm our fresh fermentations prior to distillation. This means we use less heat to reach the temperatures needed to distill. If you have visited our distillery, you will also have noticed the extent to which our stills, which run 6 days a week, provide heat for our Tasting Room and fermenters. Just another way we are preserving natural resources every day at Montanya by capturing the heat in our process.
We have added two new webpages to our website: "BOOKING MONTANYA" is about how to reserve Montanya's Tasting Room and Distillery for special events, music, fundraisers, etc. We get a ton of requests for weddings and private parties, and this page helps to clarify what kinds of events are well suited to our space (and which are not). The "UPCOMING EVENTS" page is about our 2013 national events schedule. Check out where Karen and staff will be this year and what cool events we will be participating in here in CB and around the USA.
We continue to pull in wonderful community members to help us on our bottling line! Most recently, we have welcomed our friends Michael and Jen Brody of the Crested Butte Film Festival. Not only are they a total blast, but they are fantastic help too!
We have a lot of great apres ski music coming up at Montanya in CB in February and March! The New Folk, Johnny Kongo Allstar Show, The Empty Bottle Blues Band, Bruce Hayes, Tony Rosario and more! We'll keep you posted on Facebook and on tis blog as the final schedule comes together. Join us!
Montanya headed to New York for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, a week long cocktail and spirit celebration that kicked off with a phenomenal gala at the New York Public Library. Montanya's team of Karen Hoskin and Michelle Baldwin bartended for three events and attended many more on behalf of the brand. At the Gala, Michelle and Karen served about 750 cocktails in less than 3 hours, and got tons of great feedback about how much folks loved the cocktails and the rum. We also attended the New York Indie Spirits Expo and the Industry Invitational at the Andaz Hotel. We will be back next year, so if you missed it this year, mark your calendars for 2013! To see more photos of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, check out the MCC Gala Photostream at Flickr.