What pairs great with booze? If you’ve got a sweet tooth, might we suggest honey?
That’s the philosophy up at Honey House Distillery in Hermosa. The legally-distinct-but-part-of-the-family spirit-makers are part of the bee-spit-based enterprise up at Honeyville.
While everyone else was celebrating the end of World War I or fighting off the Spanish Flu back in 1918, Vern Culhane was building beehives, transferring bees he found on his land into them and then selling the resulting honey to locals on the Florida Mesa. His son and daughter-in-law, Danny and Sheree Culhane, carried on the family’s tradition — or beekeeping — and established Honeyville up north of Durango.
Just less than a century after the beekeeping began, Danny’s son, Kevin, teamed up with friend Adam Bergal to do what comes naturally for sweet things: fermentation.
Honey House Distillery was incorporated in 2012 with just two little tanks after the founders attended a bunch of distillery conferences, Kevin Culhane said.
The first product they took a shot at — and the one that remains their flagship spirit — was Colorado Honey Whiskey, which infused bourbon from the heart of bourbon country in Kentucky with Honeyville honey. The product blends a six year old bourbon, a four year old bourbon, and wildflower honey to create a sweet and smoky concoction.
In addition to the honey bourbon, the distillery has five other products on its shelves at the moment: Cinnamon Honey Whiskey, Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur, Hex Vodka, Red Cliffs Spiced Rum, and Forgotten Barrel Honey Flavored Rum.
The cinnamon whiskey is pretty simple in concept — it’s the Colorado Honey Whiskey, but with cinnamon. (This writer may have used it in place of Fireball to enliven a cupcake recipe he shared in a recent article.) The coffee liqueur, on the other hand, combines cold brew coffee from Durango Joe’s Coffee Co.’s dark roast espresso beans with Honey House spirits, honey, and vanilla.
The spiced rum is a dryer spirit, with just a teeny bit of honey in it, Culhane says. It’s barrel aged for a short period — only about seven months — and then spiced with cinnamon. Around the holiday season, it makes an excellent hot buttered rum.
“It mixes really well,” he said.
The Forgotten Barrel rum is the only spirit the distillery makes in which the honey is added in the barrel. The spirit, which is aged for three years in an old bourbon barrel, is also a limited release, hitting shelves once every three years. It was available this past holiday season, so if it’s not there right now ... try again in 2022?
The vodka is the only product currently available that doesn’t have honey added after distillation, but it’s there in the beginning in the form of a honey mead or wine, which is then triple distilled into a non-sweet product with notes of wildflowers.
“Everything’s got honey in it in some form or another,” Culhane said.
Honey House hopes to have a couple more products available by this summer. Head Distiller Jaime Benage is working on a gin, and the distillery is getting ready to break open a straight bourbon in the very near future. At last count, the distillery was aging 71 barrels of bourbon, and the oldest was four years old. The bourbon uses the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s Bow & Arrow Corn from Towaoc.
Everything distilled on the Honey House premises goes through a custom-made 250-gallon honeycomb-adorned still that the company commissioned from Vendome Copper & Brass Works in Kentucky. The distillery’s products are currently distributed throughout Colorado and into Wyoming, but it’s looking to expand, especially into New Mexico and Arizona.
For more information about Honey House Distillery, visit honeyhousedistillery.com or call (970) 247-1474.Nick Gonzales