Whiskey, as a general rule, should be tough. Not tough like a bully or tough to get down, but tough like a person who’s seen some shit. It should have a sense of resilience to it, a vigorous strength that reminds you that this sucker aged, patiently waiting for years in a barrel until the moment was ripe for it to be bottled and poured, all for your enjoyment. If ever there was a whiskey that personified what a whiskey should be, it’s Spirit Hound Distillers’ Barrel #1 straight malt whisky (as the distillery spells it), a spirit that didn’t just sit around for more than seven years, but endured the historic Boulder floods of September 2013 which ravaged its Lyons distillery. Its barrel fought off the rising flood waters with oaky staves. Somehow, barrel one survived, weathering the weather, and its contents are emerging now, in the midst of another major challenge, ready to be sipped.
“The flood water in the building was knee-deep,” says co-owner and head distiller Craig Engelhorn. “Barrels one and two were on the bottom rack. We panicked initially, but thinking about it, we had a tight barrel. It didn’t leak out, so we didn’t think anything would leak in.”
To celebrate the irrepressible whiskey from barrel one, Spirit Hound is throwing a COVID-style release party Saturday, September 12, and Sunday, September 13. Whiskey fans can drive up to the Lyons distillery, pick up a bottle or a one-ounce pour, then go home and attend an online version of a toasting and tasting event with Engelhorn.
“It’s an outstanding whiskey,” Engelhorn says. “I don’t know anyone who’s done a single barrel of that age in Colorado—it’s extremely rare. It’s the first we’ve ever produced, it’s an entirely Colorado product, and it’s a flood-surviving product. It tells our story almost in a nutshell; it’s our very beginning.”
The mud-flecked barrel yielded just 250 bottles, which come in a unique package designed by local woodworker Troy Alexander. The wooden boxes are outfitted with machined gears to open like a clam, the sides popping apart when you lift the bottle out and closing automatically when you set it back inside the base. “We wanted a unique box that would be unlike anything else anyone’s done before,” Engelhorn says.
Barrel #1 will set you back $300 for the 750 ml bottle, or $25 for an individual pour. If that’s too steep but you want to check out other Spirit Hound products, Engelhorn recommends another of their straight malt, single barrel whiskies. “They’re each a little different, but they all have the Spirt Hound character—butterscotch, honey notes, pretty darn smooth.” They also make three versions of gin, rum, vodka, moonshine, sambuca, and coffee and chocolate liqueurs, which range from $27–60 a bottle.
Pre-order Spirit Hound Distillers Barrel #1 straight malt whisky, as well as to-go cocktails, flights, and other bottles here; curbside pick-up is available September 12 and 13 (12–8–p.m.). Sit-down service is available by reservation only. 4196 Ute Highway/US Route 36, Lyons, 303-823-5696