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Inspiration comes in many forms. For Meagan and Patrick Miller, co-owners of Talnua Distillery, inspiration arrived during the haze of their honeymoon in 2011 as they toured Ireland’s single pot still distilleries. Fast forward to this St. Patrick’s Day weekend (March 15-17): Front Range residents now have the chance to raise a dram and say “slainte” (an Irish Gaelic toast) to the Millers’ new Arvada distillery, the first single pot still whiskey distillery in Colorado.
But what is single pot still Irish whiskey in the first place? The “single” refers to a lone distillery making the spirit using one kind of grain—in this case, barley. The grain bill, or recipe, is also key, in that there must be at least 30 percent malted and unmalted barley in the mix.
The unmalted barley is what sets this whiskey apart, resulting from a 350-year-old stroke of inspiration by Irish distillers. In 1682, the British passed a malt tax speculating (correctly) that because distillers and brewers need malt to make whiskey and beer, a tax would collect quite a bit of money. To avoid paying it, Irish distillers began replacing some of the malted barley in their whiskey with unmalted (and therefore, untaxed) grain. According to Patrick, that unmalted barley gives Irish whiskey its characteristic complexity, mouthfeel, and density.
Talnua’s Irish-American iteration is therefore unique not only because of its Centennial State provenance, but also because the Millers triple distill their whiskey in copper pot stills, a rarity outside of Ireland. The final spirit, which honors Gaelic tradition, is distinctly Coloradan—it’s made from 100 percent Colorado-grown barley with Rocky Mountain water.
“We want to bring that American terroir to this Irish style of whiskey,” said Patrick, now head distiller at Talnua. “Climate, water, soil chemistry, weather, and all that are huge factors in the flavors that come out. We’re bringing Colorado terroir to this style.”
Talnua will open this weekend with four spirits for sipping neat or mixing into cocktails. The first is Inishan (which means old island), a blended whiskey made with three-year-old whiskey imported from the Cooley distillery in County Louth, Ireland, and Talnua’s year-old single pot still whiskey. The second is Carrowdair quarter oak, the distillery’s year-old single pot still whiskey aged in American oak quarter casks. (How does a brand-new distillery have year-old whiskey to pour? Talnua was originally scheduled to open a year ago as Western Gael Distillery, but had to change its name and delay the opening due to copyright issues.)
The Millers are bringing more to the table than just their flagship single pot still whiskey. Talnua is also making triple-distilled, single-pot-spirit-based gin called Finglas (clear creek), and also aging it for six to nine months in oak barrels for the Finglas Dubdair (clear creek black oak). And the Arvada tasting room, which includes a cozy lounging area in addition to a granite bar and several tables, is a modern, inviting place in which to explore Talnua’s ground-breaking product line.
If you go: Talnua Distillery will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday, March 16 from noon to 10 p.m. and on Sunday, March 17 from noon to 7 p.m. A ribbon cutting ceremony, dog adoptions, guided tastings, an Irish dance demonstration (Sunday only), and live music are part of the entertainment; food trucks will also be on site. Also on the schedule: a limited release of the Olde Saint’s Keep Special Whiskey, the first triple-distilled single pot still whiskey ever produced in the U.S.
5405 W. 56th Ave, Unit C, Arvada