Whiskey isn’t white, it’s brown. Except when it’s not.
Clear liquor tends to dominate booze sales, but most people don’t know about the silky delights of white whiskey. If you don’t enjoy brown liquor but you’re a vodka devotee, you’re in luck! Michael McCardell opened Durango Craft Spirits one year ago, after living in town for 26 years; he makes bourbon, vodka and a light whiskey christened Mayday Moonshine.
“There’s six breweries here, so we felt we needed a good distillery,” McCardell said. All of his liquors are tied to stories of Durango’s history. The moonshine is named for the Mayday Mines in the La Platas. “In the early 1900s, prohibition hit Colorado four years before the rest of the country, and Colorado was the second state to allow women the vote – then women voted in prohibition!” said McCardell. “So a lot of mines in the San Juans became hideaways for small distilleries. That story is one of the first that made me want to open this distillery.”
Mayday Moonshine is 90 proof, mixed with other grains to smooth out the flavor. McCardell is proud to use ONLY regional ingredients, like non-GMO white corn. His stuff goes “grain to glass, not like one of these so-called craft distilleries that buy their spirits, bottle it and stamp a Colorado name on it,” said McCardell. “There’s no bullshit here.” The product is only available in the state of Colorado.
This trend is actually nothing new – white whiskey has been around forever. “It started trending again three or four years ago,” said McCardell. “It’s so drinkable and versatile. You can mix it with a coke and it tastes like rum and coke. We do a margarita, because it can have a little taste of tequila to it. We do a mojito.”
Customers were showing up at the distillery wanting whiskey – but whiskey has to age for years in barrels. White whiskey doesn’t have to age, however, so it’s much quicker to sell; “We can keep the cash flow going while we continue to age the bourbon,” said McCardell. His bourbon will be ready by Christmas of 2017. He also makes a vodka called Soiled Dove, a Victorian term for “prostitute.” There were many soiled doves working at the Strater Hotel back in the day. McCardell is passionate about Durango’s rich history, using the Animas Museum as a resource in plunging deeper into local stories.
“It’s like selling candy,” said McCardell. “You tell the story; they taste the spirit. And usually the response is something like ‘holy shit, this is good.’”
Anya Jaremko-GreenwoldDGO Staff Writer