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The Williams family began distilling moonshine in the hills of North Carolina three generations ago. Thomas Williams’ great-grandfather was a moonshiner—his father taught him how to make the spirit just like his father’s father had passed down the tips to his son. But the recipes were blurry—a learn-as-you-go mash up of temperatures, starch content, and fermentation—and product hadn’t exactly been on the legal up and up. Until now.
Thomas Williams opened the Snitching Lady Distillery in 2017, perfecting whiskeys and sour mash bourbon at 11,600 feet in the tiny town of Fairplay. The 35-year-old distiller started making hooch in his Park County yard 10 years ago and the hobby progressed into a full line of approachable ryes, bourbons, and brandies.
The name Snitching Lady is an ode to Williams’ late fiancé, who would jokingly threaten to alert authorities of his backyard musings if he didn’t shift attention from his stills over to her. Today, even as demand rises, Williams keeps that same small-batch, backyard concept going, refusing to mass produce. “I only like to open a single barrel to be bottled every other month,” he says. “If I sell out of product, I’m not going to open another barrel for another month or two. It’s all about quality, not quantity.”
Every drop is double copper pot distilled at the production facility and tasting room on Front Street using local grains and fruits and Rocky Mountain snowmelt. Peach, apple, and grape brandies and whiskeys made from corn, rye and, wheat are aged in pure Carolina Oak barrels outside of Williams’ Fairplay home on the side of Mt. Sherman. He holds traditions dear, cooking small batches by open flame—a time-honored process he says gives his high-proof spirits an uncommonly smooth finish.
The distillery’s early-1800s bank building is the perfect antiquated venue with its original cast-iron vault centerpiece and walls lined in Wild West kitsch. Bartenders move like scientists across beat-up plank floors. They snip rosemary; drip-drop homemade bitters; and add mesquite wood smoke and flame-branded ice cubes to calculated cocktail potions. It’s all very premeditated, thoughtful, and unexpected in the one-stoplight town known for July’s Burro Days—an annual tribute to the area’s mining heritage complete with gold panning and outhouse races.
The dog-friendly tasting room draws fisherman, hunters, hikers, and mountain road-trippers passing through the small town just 30 minutes south of Breckenridge. Libations are handcrafted to order and creations like the signature Snitch ($8)—a floral whiskey sour with house lavender syrup, egg white, fresh lemon, orange bitter, and rosemary—and the smoky Parson Brown ($10) old fashioned convert whiskey naysayers daily.
Sip on a tasting flight ($36) and allow the blue corn whiskey’s warming butterscotch and caramel notes to ease you into a comfy, high-back antique chair surrounded by taxidermy and floral wallpaper.
Cocktail menus rotate every few months to work in seasonal fruits and herbs. This summer, watch for the distillery’s famous strawberry-basil smash ($8). Freshly muddled berries and basil collaborate with homemade simple syrup and a healthy dose of blue corn whiskey for a sunny, porch-sipping session. Two food carts—serving wood-fired pizza and barbecue—will join the distillery’s side patio scene this summer along with an active live music calendar.
500 Front St., Fairplay, 719-838-4224