Distilling has never been a woman’s world, but that hasn’t stopped Karen Hoskin, the owner and founder of Montanya Distillers in Crested Butte. She’s used to being one of the only female in the room in an industry where, she says, women make up less than seven percent of craft distillery owners and receive less than three percent of venture capital funding. Yet, Hoskin has also met—and hired—scores of talented women since founding Montanya in 2008. Valentia, Montanya’s new single-barrel, limited-release rum, is an ode to all of them.
“There are some natural barriers to women being able to get into and succeed in this business. I draw attention to that frequently in my public speaking and in the work that I’m doing. But I also get a little tired of, or a little sad [about], always talking about how rough those statistics are,” Hoskin says. “I wanted to do something…that was more of a celebration.”
Women were involved throughout the distilling process for Valentia. Montanya distiller Renee Newton led off about four years ago, creating what Hoskin calls “some of the best [rum] I’d ever tasted.” That spirit was aged in oak barrels from Laws Whiskey House, and then finished in rye barrels from Catoctin Creek Distilling Company in Virginia, under the eye of chief distiller Becky Harris. Valentia was bottled by a group of women on November 19, and then Hoskin partnered with female producers, bar owners, and bartenders through the Women’s Cocktail Collective to launch the spirit last month.
“I wanted to highlight…how capable women are at every step,” Hoskin says.
Of course, what hits your glass is just as important as the process itself. Valentia doesn’t contain Montanya’s trademark touch of caramelized honey—or any additional sweeteners—but you will taste familiar notes of cardamom, red chile, and vanilla, plus an enticing touch of honeysuckle, pepper, and ginger. (Hoskin is considering doing away with honey altogether in the distillery’s recipes in response to Colorado’s declining honeybee population.)
In keeping with the mission that brought Valentia to your local bar in the first place, a portion of all Valentia sales will benefit the Women of the Vine & Spirits Foundation, which supports education and personal development for women in the alcohol beverage industry.
As for the name? Valentia means “courage” in Spanish. “It appealed to me because, quite frankly, it’s taken a lot of courage and bravery to bring a product like this to the public,” Hoskin says. “It’s been risky for me to even speak about gender in my career.”
Clearly, Hoskin has found her voice. And people are listening: In July of last year, Montanya became one of the first distilleries to receive an investment from the Focus on Female Founders venture fund from Constellation Brands, Inc.
Find It: For a taste of Valentia, visit Montanya’s Crested Butte tasting room and/or look for it on liquor store shelves (for around $55) and bar menus (Cuba Cuba Cafe & Bar is among the Denver venues serving the new release).