Many might say that 2020 has been light on joy, but for lovers of rye, there’s something new and delicious to get excited about. Abbott & Wallace Distillers, out of Longmont, has just released its third-anniversary spirit, a Colorado straight rye whiskey, and it tastes like hard work, friendship, loss, and love. It also tastes like Colorado, as its makers intended.

Co-owners Howard K. Wallace III and John Abbott Young met in middle school, thanks to their Gainesville, Florida school’s habit of alphabetizing lockers. The two have been best friends and co-conspirators ever since; in high school, they dreamed of distilling alcohol at home, not to slack their thirst, but to fuel a hovercraft. 

Both men fell in love with home brewing—Wallace during college and Young when his girlfriend gave him a homebrewing kit on his 21st birthday—and eventually moved to Colorado to follow their passion professionally, Young at Avery Brewing Company and Wallace at Upslope Brewing Company. Brewing became distilling several years later, after Wallace began building custom copper alembic pot stills with Charles “Ted” Palmer, of Vapor Distilling; Young bought Wallace’s first handmade still in 2013. 

Custom copper alembic pot stills at Abbott & Wallace Distilling in Longmont. Photo by Denise Mickelsen

After the loss of Young’s mother that same year, which followed the death of Wallace’s dad in 2010, the then-27-year-olds decided to put Young’s inheritance and Wallace’s mechanical skills to good use, opening a distillery that would craft small-batch spirits, including rum, whiskey, and gin; highlight Colorado ingredients; and honor the memories of their loved ones. It just made sense: Wallace’s dad was a malt whiskey drinker, and Young’s mom loved rum.

By 2017, after two years of construction (that was done in large part by Wallace and Young themselves), Longtucky Spirits was born in Longmont’s former Times-Call building. Longtucky? Well, at first, Young and Wallace named their distillery after the slang nickname metropolitan Boulderites gave to its more rural neighboring city to the northeast. They adopted the name with pride, being both from the American South and respecting Longmont’s agrarian history, but were met with resistance—and confusion outside the Front Range. “It just took too long to explain what the name meant,” Young says, “and why two Floridians named their distillery after Kentucky.” 

Now, at three years in the game, Longtucky Spirits is rebranding as Abbott & Wallace Distilling. “It’s who we are,” says Wallace. “It’s about our parents and the spirits we’re making.” It’s also fitting to reestablish the company as Colorado-based with the recent release of its rye whiskey. “Kentucky makes very special, and very specific bourbon whiskey,” says Young. “Our rye is a celebration of the terroir of Colorado.” 

Abbott & Wallace Distilling’s Colorado straight rye whiskey. Photo by Denise Mickelsen

Every ingredient in a bottle of the 94-proof Colorado straight rye whiskey that Abbott & Wallace released on September 26 comes from the Centennial State. “We’re about preserving the land,” Wallace says, “and not wasting anything.” 

Aroostook rye and corn for this special rye whiskey comes from Schlagel Farms, located about five miles from the Longmont distillery; malted barley is sourced from Loveland’s Root Shoot Malting. Distilling takes place in the handsome copper alembic pot stills Wallace built; aging took more than two years in new American oak barrels; and Wallace took two weeks to proof the rye down to its potent-yet-sippable 47 percent ABV using Eldorado spring water. 

It’s a rich, spicy whiskey, with aromas of cinnamon, hazelnut, and burnt orange peels. Sweet and smooth with a noticeable kick, there are toffee and dark fruit notes on the palate; a world of flavor opens up with a splash of water or an ice cube. “This Colorado rye is so unique,” says Wallace, “from a combination of its terroir and climate and oak character.” At $65 for 750 ml, it’s the distillery’s most expensive bottle to date, but it’s also a testament to Young and Wallace’s determination, drive, and dedication to Colorado—and what they’ve built together. 

Despite pandemic sales being down 30 percent and its tasting room open at only 25 percent capacity, Abbott & Wallace isn’t cutting corners or compromising. “We’re going to stay on the balls of our feet,” says Young. “We’re flexible and will watch trends and get on them. We’re going to make up for lost time.” 

Abbott & Wallace Distilling’s Colorado straight rye whiskey can be purchased here or at the distillery tasting room at 350 Terry St., Suite 120, Longmont. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 4 p.m. to close. 

Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen is 5280’s former food editor. She oversaw all of 5280’s food-related coverage from October 2016 to March 2021.