In 2010, when Alan Laws launched his whiskey distillery, Laws Whiskey, he was Colorado distiller No. 24. The state now boasts more than 80.
There’s a notable micro-distillery movement in Colorado, and whiskey is leading the trend.
Here are our 10 favorite ways to celebrate whiskey in Colorado during your next Mile High vacation.
Stranahan's is arguably Colorado’s most famous whiskey distiller, considered the first ever Colorado-born whiskey. Tours of the distillery are so popular, especially on the weekends, that you’ll need to make reservations weeks in advance. But it’s worth it.
The one-hour tour includes history, behind-the-scenes looks at the production and free samples of “Colorado’s most precious gold.” Kick it up a notch with the VIP Top Shelf Tour, an hour and a half tour with even more tastings, including a sample of the limited-release Snowflake series.
See why Malt Advocate magazine named Stranahan’s Batch 49 was voted the “artisanal whiskey of the year” in 2010.
Breckenridge Craft Spirit Festival
The annual Breckenridge Craft Spirit Festival is the event for whiskey lovers. This year it runs Oct. 23-25 and includes distillery tours, a poker run, a historic saloon walking tour, live music at the historic Gold Pan Saloon and even “Hangover Brunch” and brunch drink specials at different restaurants throughout town.
But the highlight is the Still on the Hill, a tasting of various handcrafted spirits. Vote on your favorite spirit and leave with a free tasting glass.
Fish and Sip
Combine your love for whiskey with your love for the outdoors, by going on a guided fly fishing tour and then heading to Vail's 10th Mountain Whiskey distillery for a flight of whiskey.
In the past, Antlers at Vail has offered a special Flights and Flies package that combined a half-day of fishing with whiskey.
Laws Whiskey House
Try the special Colorado rye made by Laws Whiskey. This rye is made with 100 percent Colorado grain, completely grown and crafted in Colorado, which gives it a unique flavor.
If the rye is sold out (the first batch did within two weeks), pick up the signature four-grain whiskey at the Denver distillery or at liquor stores throughout the state. Laws is nearly exclusively sold in Colorado.
Smoke cigars and sip whiskey by the fire, in this unique indoor-outdoor cigar lounge in Beaver Creek, located inside the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch.
Bachelors Lounge (named for the region, not for the gender) is the only cigar bar in Vail Valley. Ask the expert mixologists to pair the perfect cigar with Bachelors Bourbon — made exclusively for the lounge by the Breckenridge Distillery.
Looking for something funky? Try a custom-made Turkish hookah with flavored tobacco, or a Zero Calorie dessert, a fun new twist on the Vaportini. This winter, the Ritz-Carlton spa will even offer a Bachelors Bourbon spa treatment.
Tour the world’s highest distillery, Breckenridge Distillery, and try the spiced whiskey — perfect for winter. The distillery offers free tours and boasts an outdoor patio, complete with a bar serving signature cocktails.
Try the Urban Bourbon signature cocktail: bourbon, corriander/fennel syrup, orange juice, Luxardo, mint leaves and garnished with (wait for it) beef jerky.
Whiskey and Wings BBQ Festival in Winter Park
Whiskey goes great with wings, and Winter Park celebrates this every year at its annual Whiskey and Wings BBQ Festival. Fill up on all kinds of wings from across the Front Range and wash it down with whiskey samples, including some rare brands.
Prepare to help judge the “sampling showdown,” where the best wings and best grilled foods will be crowned.
The festival is usually early September, with free admission and live music.
The Robusto Room
Order the Fire & Rye: Bulleit rye, pear liqueur, cardamaro and served in a smoking mason jar, at The Robusto Room in Lone Tree. This sophisticated, sultry lounge is one of only six cigar bars in the state, and it specializes in handcrafted cocktails and specialty whiskeys.
The Robusto Room serves more than 24 bourbons, 10 ryes, three Japanese whiskeys and other highly curated spirits.
Another must-try drink: South of Heaven, made with Old Forester Bourbon, fresh lemon juice, cinnamon tea and Amara Ciociara.
Whiskey Warm-Up Weekend in Estes Park
Whiskey is the central theme at this March celebration in Estes Park, the Whiskey Warm Up. On March 12 in the outdoor Riverside Plaza, visitors are invited to sip Colorado whiskey from various distilleries, browse booths selling handmade cigars, listen to live music and see demos of hand-rolling cigars.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Denver is home to a handful of excellent whiskey bars, but locally owned Whiskey Tango Foxtrot stands out for its massive selection of more than 90 whiskeys, plus a list of handcrafted cocktails. Oh, there’s beer and food, too.
But we’re all about Whiskey Wednesdays. All day long, all whiskies are half price.