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Touring the Leopold Bros Distillery in Denver

Leopold Brothers

Leopold Bros. is a Denver-based distillery putting out an extensive lineup of small batch whiskeys, gin, absinthe and liqueurs. Living in Denver, I drink many of their products, so I figured it’s high time I visit the distillery to see where the stuff is made.

Turns out, they don’t advertise tours or have anything regularly scheduled, but they do occasionally offer tours on Saturdays during the summer. So that worked out nicely.

The tour starts off in the front room of a warehouse that serves as a showcase for the certificates the brothers (yes, Scott and Todd really are brothers — it isn’t a gimmick) have collected over the years, as well as the many awards and medals their liquors have earned.

Erich, one of the distillers, starts us off with a quick history lesson. Scott Leopold, who earned his degree in environmental engineering, served as a consultant to large breweries, helping them decrease the amount of water used in the brewing process. Since these big companies did not elect to use his theories, he decided to branch out on his own. He and his brother scouted locations for their brewery, finally deciding on the college town of Ann Arbor Michigan. Their beer was a hit, however customers soon started asking for other drink options. Due to the laws in Michigan, they had to make everything they sold, so they soon started distilling and growing food to serve. After a few years of doing that, they decided to focus solely on spirits, and moved their operation to Colorado, where the brothers grew up.

But back to the actual tour… it takes about three hours. Yes, that’s a long time. But we tasted 13 different spirits, so it’s time well spent. Since Leopold Bros. is a relatively small operation, each of their spirits are batch brewed and hand numbered, and the taste may vary slightly from bottle to bottle. Below are the spirits we tasted, in order, along with facts from Erich and some thoughts from me (my notes in italics).

Leopold Brothers 2

Silver Tree Vodka: Smooth and silky tasting with a sweet vanilla flavor.  I’m not a big vodka drinker, but this one seems perfect for summer cocktails.

Leopold Bros Gin: Made using two times more juniper than most gins, but it doesn’t necessarily taste like it. Leopold Bros. distills each of the botanicals separately, mixing them at the end to ensure each flavor is distilled to perfection. This gin uses Valencia oranges, coriander and juniper, among other botanicals. This is a gin I could drink on its own. Give this to anyone who says they “hate gin.”

Leopold Bros Navy Strength Gin: This was specifically designed for making cocktails. The regular gin has two times the juniper of most gins, while their navy strength version has two times more juniper than that.

Leopold Bros American Orange Liqueur: Created using three different orange botanicals that are distilled separately and then mixed together. It is sweetened with agave nectar and Belgian candy sugar. Mix this with tequila and fresh squeezed lime juice for a damn fine margarita.

Leopold Bros Michigan Tart Cherry Liqueur: This liqueur starts with the smashing of Michigan cherries. Each bottle contains three pounds of cherries and it tastes like alcoholic cherry pie in the best possible way.

Leopold Bros Blackberry Liqueur: Made from smashing blackberries. Each bottle contains four pounds of the stuff.

Leopold Bros New England Cranberry Liqueur: Made from smashing “second round” cranberries, or the ones with slight imperfections like knicks and brown spots. These are more sweet than tart. Each bottle contains four pounds of cranberries.

Leopold Bros Bourbon: Has hints of cinnamon and dark chocolate. Delicious.

Leopold Bros New York Apple Whiskey: Spends 10 months aging in barrels. The sweet, fruity apples blend nicely with the charred oak.

Leopold Bros Rocky Mountain Blackberry Whiskey: Leopold Bros. whiskey is blended with freshly juiced fruit and aged in barrels. This is a popular ingredient on Denver cocktail menus.

Leopold Bros Coffee Whiskey: Uses the same coffee that New Belgium Brewery uses to brew their Coffee Porter, which comes from a roaster in Fort Collins. Leopold Bros. bottles this spirit while it is still warm. Great to drink after dinner with your dessert.

Leopold Bros Herbal Liqueur: Created with flowers and herbs found in the Rocky Mountains and blended with small amounts of ginkgo biloba, echinacea, coriander, and orange zest. Looking for something to soothe your sore throat in the winter? This “medicinal” liqueur will do the trick. Drink it by the fire in the winter.

One interesting thing to note: all of the Leopold Bros. spirits contain sediment, as they do not filter them before bottling. Also interesting: the spirits above don’t even comprise the entire catalog. There were at least five other products we didn’t get to taste on the tour, including their rye whiskey, peach whiskey and absinthe. Overall, it was quite a day. If you’re in the Denver area, touring the Leopold Bros. Distillery is highly recommended. And if you like experimenting with cocktails at home, their lineup offers you plenty to work with.

Leopold Bros. Distillery
4950 Nome Street
Denver, CO 80239
(303) 307-1515
www.leopoldbros.com

Written by Monika McMahon

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