The head distiller at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey just left—is this the company’s last call?

Why Jake Norris left Stranahan's.
September 2011

When I heard that Jake Norris, co-founder and longtime head distiller at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey had left the liquor purveyor last month, I was tempted to reach for a bottle and a glass to mourn the changing-of-the-guard at one of Colorado’s best homegrown businesses. Instead, I picked up the phone.

I have more than a happy-hour interest in Stranahan’s. I’ve watched the company grow, expand, and get sold, which I chronicled in September’s “Strange Brew.” When I reported that article in June, Norris assured me that he would stay at Stranahan’s, saying: “It was a challenge to hand over something I was so passionate about. But these guys are businessmen. I’m a craftsman. My place is behind the still.” He also spoke of the brand in a wistful, nostalgic way, like he’d already left. To this reporter and Stranahan’s fan, it felt like he was ready to move on and leave the corporate side of the liquor business to the suits. After 5280 went to press, Norris did just that and said goodbye to the whiskey company he helped create.

Norris answered my call yesterday, fresh from a trip to visit family in Arizona. Here’s what he had to say.

Was it hard to leave?

It was a difficult decision. I was so attached and close to it, but I felt like my work there was done. I had gotten to do all the cool stuff. I don’t want to mourn it. I want to celebrate.

What have you been doing since leaving Stranahan’s?

I spent some weeks with family. I built a clay bread oven with my dad and made some awesome pizza. I canned some Palisade peaches with my mom.

What’s next?

I have some stuff in the works. People may be surprised. [Watch his blog for updates.]

What is your all-time favorite batch of Stranahan’s?

Solitude Snowflake.

Where’s the best place to drink whiskey in Colorado?

My backyard.

Cheers to that.

Photo by Gregor Torrence