Cooking with: Steamboat Whiskey Company
- Spiced apple old-fashioned
- Pumpkin spiced white Russian
- Stoney Negroni
- Mountain Man Coco
- Ski Town Mule
- The smell — a good portion of the actual taste in whiskey comes from smell
- Take your time; enjoy every bit of it
- Prepare your palate for it — small sips, it’s not a shot
- When it comes the taste, look for: time in the barrel, if it's different from the last batch or any nuances to the making of the whiskey that are part of the experience
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — There’s something about the low-lit, dark wood décor, accented by exposed pipes and a full selection of bourbons, ryes and other whiskeys behind the bar, that gives Steamboat Whiskey Company a speakeasy feel.
One could imagine Winston Churchill savoring a cigar in a discreet corner and swirling a single-malt scotch – or in this case the Warrior Whiskey.
“We make high-quality spirits by hand, batch by batch, using traditional methods in our American-made pot still,” said Nathan Newhall, head distiller who co-owns Steamboat Whiskey Company with his wife, Jessica Newhall, and partner Albert Rayle.
“We’re a distillery pub,” added Jessica, “giving us the unique opportunity to sell beer, wine, food and self distribute. It also gives us a chance to really have something for everyone — even for that person who says they would never drink whiskey.”
The new distillery, which officially opened Friday, is located at 55 11th St. in downtown Steamboat. And even though the business specializes in whiskey, it also offers specialty cocktails like the “Autumn Smash,” “Wet and Sandy” and “Mountain Smoke Manhattan” along with desserts like salted caramel cake infused with their Warrior Whiskey.
“Whiskey has been at the center of social gatherings for millenniums,” Jessica said. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. We just want to showcase some great whiskey using as many locally-sourced items as possible.”
Warrior Whiskey blends a Tennessee rye with a wheat bourbon, which is then aged for about three months in newly emptied Cruzan Rum casks and bottled at Navy strength — 100 proof.
“This combines the two tastes of rye and bourbon to create a malty, layered profile,” Nathan said. “I’ve been a big fan of Tennessee-styled rye for awhile, and it’s taken some experimentation to get the blend right, but I think we’ve really nailed it.”
The Newhalls’ goal is to eventually make whiskey from scratch, but they started with a blend – what most distilleries do – so that their homemade product has time to age, which takes about two year before they can offer it to the public.
“All spirit that comes out of the still is clear,” Nathan said. “But it’s the wood from the barrel that makes it brown and gives it those flavors. Through condensation and evaporation, the barrel breathes, essentially, and an extraction of the wood occurs with the transfer between the atmosphere and liquid.”
Each barrel makes about 500 bottles of whiskey, but before it’s bottled and watered down to 100 proof, it comes out of the barrel at 120 proof with flecks of char from the inside of the barrel.
“That char is from the inside of the barrel burning due to the spirit creating a release in the tannins and pores of the wood that in turn gives whiskey its unique flavor,” Nathan said.
In the next few months, the Newhalls will experiment using casks from La Montanya Distillers based in Crested Butte, and by Christmas, they plan to offer their Sleeping Giant Gin and Steamboat Moonshine.
“We want to be a place of experimentation, which also gives us an opportunity to create smaller batches for specialty cocktails at the bar and then sell a couple hundred bottles right away,” said Nathan, who grew up skiing at Steamboat Ski Area, spent time in the Navy and then became enamored with the distilling business, eventually completing an apprenticeship at Chicago’s Quincy St. Distillery.
“People drink when times are good, and people drink when times are bad,” said Jessica. “It’s a career that’s somewhat recession proof, and we are excited to bring something new to Steamboat.”
Steamboat Whiskey Distillery is open from 4 to 11 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.
Wet ‘n Sandy
(a deconstructed, reconstructed old-fashioned)
- 2 oz. Warrior whiskey
- 1 oz. orange juice
- 2 to 3 dashes angostura bitters
- 1 dash orange bitters
- 2 dashes cherry juice
Rim rocks glass with turbinado sugar, fill shaker with ice and add Warrior Whiskey, bitters, OJ and cherry juice and stir. Add ice, orange wheel and cherry to glass and pour in shaker contents.
Mountain Smoke Manhattan
- 2 oz. Warrior whiskey
- 2 dashes angostura bitters
- 2 dashes Fee Brothers orange bitters
- 1 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
- Thin lemon twist garnish.
Chill martini glass with ice. Add Warrior Whiskey, bitters, sweet vermouth and ice in shaker and stir. Empty ice from martini glass and strain contents of shaker into glass; smoke the cocktail with hickory wood chips using a culinary smoker like the smoking gun. Cover with coop glass (about 10 seconds) while prepping the lemon twist garnish.
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