Whiskey, the spirit that fueled the Wild West, is hot again, with global sales topping $3 billion last year, creating a run on all styles of the spirit. Fortunately for Coloradans, distillers are popping up across the state creating their own unique versions of this American staple and helping fill demand across the Rockies. One of the newest, Laws Whiskey House, is just down the road in Denver and might be creating one of the best bourbons in the state. And soon it will be available across Boulder County.
Al Laws not only makes whiskey, it’s his passion.
“When I decided to create my whiskey I did not want to divide my focus; my goal was to make the best product possible,” Laws says. His first batch of bourbon needed to age in charred American White Oak barrels gaining complexity and flavor imparted slowly month after month. This risky gamble meant that he did not have anything to sell for four years, a long time with no cash flow, something most startup distillers could not survive.
Working mornings and evenings around his day job, Laws kept creating whiskey… lots of whiskey. By the time he hand-bottled his first batch in October of last year, there were close to a thousand barrels in various states of aging throughout his distillery— about $15 million worth of inventory. After the 4,400 bottles of the first batch of A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon sold out in just eight weeks, Laws quit his day job.
The four grains in his inaugural release (corn, barley, rye and wheat) are each used to create their own styles of whiskey, but very few distillers, big or small, blend all four — it’s just too hard.
“Rye is one of the hardest grains to distill with, it imparts such a distinctive spicy finish it can overpower everything else,” says Laws. “But if you get it right then it’s magic.”
Laws’ bourbon is double distilled using a sour mash open-air process with wheat, barley and rye grown in Alamosa and corn from Wisconsin.
“We are working with our growers to find Colorado corn that meets our standards. Once we find that, we will be 100 percent Colorado,” Laws says.
Their 550-gallon still churns out a constant stream of whiskey allowing Al Laws and master distiller Jake Norris to lay down 40 barrels of whiskey a month. Their Four Grain Straight Whiskey is a blend of barrels from two-years old to three-and-a-halfyears old.
“One of the advantages of aging whiskey in altitude is the constant change in barometric pressures forcing the liquid in and out of the charred wood inside our barrels. It speeds up the process allowing us to create a mature whiskey faster than we would be able to at sea level,” Laws says. “We then blend to develop the layers of flavors essential to good whiskey.”
The finished product is an incredibly complex bourbon that is perfectly balanced. The hint of spice from the rye works in concert with the sweeter flavors from the wheat. Next up, they are getting ready to bottle their second batch of 5,200 bottles with plans to bring it to Boulder in the next few months. But if you can’t wait and are craving a bottle now, head to their distillery at 1420 S. Acoma St. in Denver.