A month or so ago we went to a Rum distillery while on vacation and while this may bring up thoughts of warm weather and tropical breezes, it was actually high up in the mountains in Colorado in the town of Silverton. Yep, I know that sounds a bit odd that Colorado would have a rum distillery but it does and Montanya Rum is a great one at that (http://www.montanyadistillers.com).
We arrive up in the town of Silverton early on a cool October day looking for the Montanya Distillery. If you ever have been in Silverton it's way up there - 9300ft and the drive up to it from Ouray is nothing short of spectacular. But the town itself is not large and it really had us puzzled that we couldn't seem to find it.
Finally we pull in and the reason we missed it becomes obvious in our heads when we heard distillery (especially one that is distributed in 6 states). We expected a large operation but the distillery is actually in a fairly small building that looks as much like a house as a place that makes great run.
We are greeted by Lizzie Loyer who shows us around a bit. When you walk in the first thing you see is the big copper distilling pot where the rum is made and a bar which when walking into a distillery is a very welcome sight indeed. We are there pretty early in the morning and at the moment rum isn’t being made but the copper of Bella (what they have named the distillery pot) is still warm from last nights brewing.
The first thing we do is take a little tour. The distillery consists of three floors. Upstairs is where they keep the barrels of rum till they are readied to be bottled, which they do themselves on the little machine shown below.
The main floor is where "Bella" is and the bar where they hold nightly tastings because they want to be known as much for their mixed drinks as the rum itself. And lastly the bottom floor where the mash is made in preparation to get turned into alcohol in "Bella".
After that we talked a bit with Lizzie Loyer about the distillery and why it is located up high in the mountains in Colorado. Below I have copied a bit of information on why the rum they make is so good.
There are some compelling reasons why making rum in the mountains of Colorado just makes plain good sense.
Here are just a few:
• The main ingredient in rum, comprising 85% of the fermented wash and 60% of the final bottled product, is water. Rum comes out of the still at about 140 proof and is blended with water to be bottled at 80 proof. Now, I am not sure if you have ever been to the Caribbean, but water there is not only scarce but it is not of the highest quality. Here in Silverton, our water is crisp, clean snowmelt straight out of Silverton's own pristine Boulder Creek.
• The finest rums in the world are aged at altitude. It's true - we didn't make this up for our marketing campaign. In Guatemala at the Ron Zacapa distillery, barrels are carried up into the mountains to age because the temperature fluctuations from day to night which force more rum into and out of the barrel's oak pores. The crazy magic of the oak makes the rum more smooth and delicious. It is true that Guatemala has some nice mountains. But the San Juan mountains of Southwestern Colorado are pretty hard to beat.
• Rum is traditionally aged in American Oak casks. Caribbean and Central American rum producers import their barrels from whiskey makers in the US. We are actually closer to the source! Our barrels reach us fresh from the whiskey distillery. A fresher barrel ages tastier rum.
• Rum fermentation attracts fruit flies (and yes, even bats) en masse to the tank, and the good news is...Silverton just doesn't have any of those because of our cool temperatures and high elevation. We don't think they added any good flavors anyway.
• Making rum produces a lot of heat. Ever seen photos of Caribbean distillers working over a hot still in a full sweat? They actually have to cool their wash during fermentation to keep the yeast from dying. In our distillery, the temperature on a summer day is ideal for fermentation. On a chilly winter day, the heat from our still keeps the building in the high 60s, a fine temperature for fermentation and comfortable visitors. What better idea for a business in a chilly climate than one that produces heat as its main by-product?
• Silverton's miners have been drinking rum for 120 years, and we think they should have a source closer to home!
The process for making the rum itself takes about 7-10 days for the yeast mixed with sugercane and water to eat up the sugar and make the mash for "Bella" then get reduced from 100 gallons down to 12 gallons of rum in "Bella". Then from there to be cut with Boulder Gulch spring water and placed in the cask for aging.
Montanya makes two different types of rum, a light that’s called Platino and a dark called Oro, and both are pretty darn good and have been winning lots of rewards (if you would like to know which ones please take a look at their website). For myself, being a Scotch fan I liked the dark run better myself while Barb preferred the light.
Now we got up there pretty early in the day around 10 am and were planning to head on out of town after the tour so when we were offered a drink of the rum and a mixed drink we hesitated a bit but decided why not, we were on vacation and it seems just wrong to pass up a free drink!
What Lizzie Loyer made for us was the “Freestyle”.
Rim: Mix equal parts of Ground Cinnamon, and Nutmeg. Add Turbinado Sugar to mix for desired taste.
1oz Clove Simple Syrup
2-3 oz Montanya Oro
1 Full Lemon
Spoonful of Pineapple chunks
Muddled 4-5 Basil Leaves
Clove Simple Syrup: Make Simple Syrup- Equal Parts sugar and water- infuse cloves for one day or Toast cloves slightly then add the water and sugar to make the simple syrup
And man was it tasty. Barb the ever practical one cut me off after a sip or two because according to her I was driving. Myself I believe it was so she could have more to herself.
If you’re ever in the area stop by here at night and try out some of their drinks and see the distillery for yourself. It's pretty darn cool and the drinks are fantastic.
They are coming up with new drinks all the time and seem to be happy to share them, so take a peek at their website.
Thanks for stopping by our Colorado Denver based Restaurant/Food review and blog. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment here or email us at jonathan or barb @milehigheater.com.