FORT COLLINS, CO – Just ten minutes off of I-25 in Fort Collins, Feisty Spirits is located on the eastern edge of a strip known as “Brewer’s Row”. It might not be the most natural sounding location for a whiskey distillery, but when you consider what a new distillery needs to make whiskey, it makes perfect sense. Brewer’s Row strategically locates Feisty Spirits in the middle of an established supply of local grains, live yeast strains, oak barrels and of course a supple selection of craft beers. Add a still, water and a few whiskey inclined perfectionists and you get Feisty Spirits.
The term “craft” has become somewhat of a controversial label among whiskey enthusiasts, but I assure you even the most exclusionary definition of a “craft distillery” would safely include Feisty Spirits. Everything in a Feisty Spirits bottle is distilled by them, just ten feet from the front door of their tasting room. Walk in and you will be greeted by a smiling face and a flowery yeast filled aroma produced by “Aphrodite,” Feisty’s artisan pot and column still.
In the back, locally sourced organic grains such as colored corns, organic rye, oats, spelt wheat and malted barley spend time in a mash tun waiting to be fermented and distilled. Once Aphrodite has pumped out her juice, the distillate goes into special small size, honeycombed barrels made by Black Swan Cooperage in Minnesota. Small barrels speed up the aging process by evening out the wood to whiskey ratio compared to the standard barrels. On top of that, Black Swan’s special honeycombed barrels have had the inside staves etched with a honeycomb pattern. The ridges created by this honeycombed pattern increase the surface area of the barrel which helps the aging whiskey have even more contact with the charred wood. In just a matter of weeks, Feisty’s whiskey obtains the color of a traditionally aged six year old bourbon.
While there are profiles that you simply cannot obtain while using small barrels, the boundaries of what can and cannot be done with small barrels has yet to be proven or even pushed. Feisty’s Master Distiller Dave Monahan believes that whiskey bound for a standard barrel needs to be altered for small barrels if you hope to obtain a more traditional profile. Standard yeast strains and grain proportions react differently in small barrels, so when aiming to create a traditional bourbon profile, adjustments need to be made. Most notably, Feisty uses oats as a tasting grain to soften the spicy oak and harsh char profiles that can quickly be created when using small barrels.
From the time a barrel is filled, Dave and the other members of feisty are finding their products fully matured around two months, give or take a week. This uncommon age for dark whiskey is a badge of pride for Feisty, not a statistic they hide. They plan on filling standard size barrels eventually, but we all know the alternative to using small barrels is either selling white dog out of a mason jar, or cleverly packaging sourced Kentucky or Indiana whiskey under a Colorado label. Even then, Feisty’s whiskey is far from a band-aid until they get their standard barrels up and running. Each offering is unique and highly enjoyable. Their whiskey easily asserts itself as the best craft whiskey I have had all year, and they are only warming up.
Touring Feisty & Red, White and Blue Bourbon
When you walk in to Feisty Spirits, the first thing I recommend you do is look at a bottle. They list their ingredients on the back, they use an age statement, and if you ask they will even tell you the mashbill ratio. There is no smoke, no mirrors, no magic farm in Kentucky or transformative stream of Rocky Mountain spring water. Feisty puts their cards on the table because they believe there is no substitute for flat out good whiskey.
The best part of visiting Feisty is tasting whiskey across the table from the people that distilled it. This is a very rare experience that is mutually beneficial. While you might want to know the grain proportions, age or the char of the barrel used in the whiskey you are tasting, the people at Feisty want to know what you think as well.
Every bottle of Feisty whiskey is a single barrel cut to 88 proof and sold for about $48. Right now you have your choice of three ryes and three bourbons listed below, but in early September Feisty will be releasing their first batch of their “Red, White and Blue Bourbon”. This will be made from 20% red corn, 20% white corn, 20% blue corn, rye and malted barley. During my tour I had the privilege of tasting this offering at after just six weeks in the barrel. Even with about two weeks left to go, their RW&B Bourbon was easily the best craft I have had all year. Maple, ripe apples, red wine, cinnamon, candied pecans and a sharp vanilla created more depth than I had originally thought possible with small barrels.
The RW&B Bourbon will be available around 9/11/2013, and if the awesome name wasn’t enough to peak your interest, a portion of their proceeds will go to RAW (Rebuilding America’s Warriors), a not for profit organization that provides reconstructive surgery to injured veterans right here in Colorado, and across the nation. It seems as though the RW&B bourbon will be a limited seasonal release that will likely sell out quick, so “like” them on Facebook to stay up to date with the release date.
Update: RW&B Bourbon is for sale from the Feisty Tasting Room, and 9/16 at Davidson’s in Highlands Ranch.
Right now, every bottle of Feisty is self distributed. I personally recommend you head up to the distillery so you can try their entire lineup before you settle on one, but if you are north of Castle Rock, odds are they are in a store near you. If you are in Denver, Small Batch Liquors stocks a few offerings. Hazel’s Beverage World is the Boulder store that will have some of their products, and if you are in Fort Collins you should be able to see who carries it by checking out Feisty’s website.
- Yellow Corn Bourbon (15% oats, 15% rye, 5% malted barley)
- Blue Corn Bourbon (70% blue corn, 25% rye, 5% malted barley)
- Red Corn Bourbon (15% oats, 15% rye, 5% malted barley)
- 100% Rye
- Rye (70% rye, 30% yellow corn)
- Oat Rye
- Red, White and Blue Bourbon (20% red corn, 20% white corn, 20% blue corn, rye and malted barley)
I receive no compensation from Feisty, Black Swan or any other entity mentioned