Durango Craft Spirits has some new bourbons aging, and we’re excited

by Nick Gonzales

Fans of local whiskey, we’ve got something to look forward to … albeit in about 1.75 years.

Durango Craft Spirits has two new spirits aging — a blue corn bourbon and a single malt bourbon — both of which should be ready in 2022, according to co-owner and distiller Michael McCardell. The limited releases will join the brewery’s existing Soiled Doves Vodka, Mayday Moonshine, and Cinder Dick Bourbon.

If you’ve never had blue corn before (in which case, live a little and vary your tortilla chip purchases for goodness’ sake), it tends to have a sweeter and nuttier flavor than yellow or white corn, and in our experience, those qualities actually survive the brewing or distilling process. Beer drinkers can find a number of blue corn beers — even within our immediate region.

The blue corn in this particular spirit comes from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s Bow & Arrow farms in Towaoc. The rest of the ingredients in both liquors come from Colorado Malting Company in Alamosa.

The blue corn spirit is heavily wheated, with a little bit of rye and a two-row malt, he said. He has put away eight barrels of the stuff this year and plans to do the same in 2021. And, if you’re curious, it’s aging in new American white oak heavy-charred barrels. McCardell prefers heavily charred barrels because they bring out different flavors and add some smokiness and a slight hint of cinnamon.

“It’s real fun to work with … it smells nice,” McCardell said about the blue corn.

He had planned to make a blue corn bourbon even before he opened up shop in downtown Durango five years ago, he said, and was inspired to do so again recently as other craft distilleries have started experimenting with exotic corn varieties.

“It’s really surprised me that this blue corn had such a high starch content, which of course produces more sugar and produces more alcohol. The taste of it is really a little bit on the sweet side, and it tastes just fantastic,” he said.

In its current unaged and undiluted form (as it sits in the barrels, it’s at a considerably higher proof than that at which McCardell plans to release it), the whiskey is indeed sweet and has a soft, almost pillowy mouthfeel. He attributes this to the wheat in it. It tastes completely unlike DCS’s Cinder Dick Bourbon.

McCardell is hoping that it will be ready to distribute in the early summer of 2022. The single malt, on the other hand, will likely be ready in December 2022. He began making it last year, and in its current, also undiluted form, it has a butterscotch-iness to it, at least on the palate.

McCardell plans to make about 500 bottles of the single malt and 2,500 of the blue corn bourbon per year for the foreseeable future. As you can probably tell, the single malt will be a bit more exclusive than the blue corn bourbon or the distillery’s existing spirits.

We’re fans of DCS’s existing spirits (even the vodka has a taste that we enjoy — and we’re really not vodka drinkers), so we can’t wait to try out the finished versions of the new bourbons. But we have to get through the entirety of 2021 and then some first. So for now, we wait.

Nick Gonzales


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