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Smart Sips: Honey House Distillery

This Durango-based distillery may only be five years old, but its roots harken back to the 1920s.

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Kevin Culhane
Honey House Distillery co-founder Kevin Culhane. Photo by Ben Brashear

Although Durango’s five-year-old Honey House Distillery is a relative newcomer to the long game of whiskey, its roots extend back to the 1920s. That’s when beekeeper Vernon Culhane first started his company, Honeyville, which became famous for its signature cinnamon whipped honey and honey-sweetened chokecherry jam. Now, 97-years later, his grandson Kevin Culhane (along with co-founder Adam Bergal) have begun using Honeyville’s signature raw honey to craft Honey House’s honey whiskey, Forgotten Barrel spiced rum, cinnamon whiskey, and Hex vodka. Each spirit is single-batch distilled in a custom Vendome Copper Works still shaped like a beehive.

With over 70 distilleries now sprinkled throughout the state of Colorado, Culhane wanted Honey House to occupy its own distinctive niche. “We knew that we wanted to work with honey because that was established by Vernon, and it really put our stamp on the whiskey.” he says.

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The distillery’s flagship honey whiskey makes for a great introduction. It’s a blend of four- and five-year-aged bourbons with locally sourced corn comprising the majority of the mash bill. The high corn content coaxes the honey to stand out, while rye and malted barley contribute to the easy-drinking spirit’s smooth caramel finish.

Honey House Distillery
Honey House’s custom-built still. Photo by Ben Brashear

Honey House’s sweet journey hasn’t been without struggle. The deleterious effects of Colony Collapse Disorder may have peaked in 2011, but it still has the potential to turn honey into a precious commodity—and Honey House spirits into liquid gold as a result. With increasing demand for honey and smaller harvests, Honeyville has been forced to look beyond local sources and bring honey in from as far away as Wyoming and Montana. “It’s a roller coaster sometimes. Some producers get hit hard and others have stellar harvests,” Culhane says. And while the distillery plans to continue concocting its honey-centric spirits, it’s also diversifying: “We’re preparing for the future, making brandy from Palisade peaches and [looking into] a potential partnership with Guy Drew Vineyards in Cortez.”

Currently Honey House spirits can be found in select liquor stores throughout Colorado as well as at its Durango tasting room (where you can also stock up on a variety of Honeyville’s wares).

33633 US-550, Durango, 970-247-1474

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