I mix up my favorite summertime cocktail: A blend of homegrown basil-infused simple syrup, soda and fresh-squeezed lemon juice, but instead of the vodka I substitute Montanya’s Platino light rum. I garnish it with a sprig of just-picked Thai basil, and settle into a chair in the backyard for this very important work assignment.
Voila, I’m a rum drinker.
“We’re working hard to change the way people think about rum. We like to say that we’re helping people ‘think outside the rum-and-Coke box,” says Hoskin. “What we love about this business… is that we’re recognizing the role cocktails have in the culinary experience.”
To understand what Hoskin means by “culinary experience,” take a gander at the cocktail menu at the Montanya Distillery Tasting Room, located in an historic building (actually an old bordello) on Blair Street in Silverton. The Green River Martini blends a cucumber-infused Platino rum with a honey-lavender simple syrup. The Maharaja unifies ginger, lime and Chai tea spices. You’ll find cocktails flavored with chipotle peppers and others blended with muddled blueberries; what you won’t find, however, is anything as mundane as a rum and Coke.
Montanya Rum is the progeny of Hoskin and her husband, Brice, who admit they’ve had a love affair with rum for more than 20 years. After traveling the world tasting rum from India to Belize, the Silverton-based couple (who also own Mountainboy Sled Works) began contemplating their next business venture. Research into companies like Ron Zacapa, whose rum is taken into the mountains of Guatemala as part of its aging process, provided evidence that good rum could be made at high altitude. What the Hoskins have discovered in the two years since they started distilling rum in Silverton is that not only could rum be made high in the mountains, it really should be made high in the mountains.
Since it rolled out its first bottles of Colorado-crafted rum in 2009, Montanya Rum has won three gold and five silver medals at spirits competitions. At the prestigious Miami Rum XP competition in May, Montanya’s Platino beat out more than 100 other rums for the judges’ highest score.
The benefits of making rum in the mountains are twofold, Hoskin explains. First, rum’s main ingredient – water – is pure and in no short supply in Silverton. Second, the wide temperature fluctuations found at high altitude make for a more robust aging process, since more of the spirit is forced into and out of the oak barrel’s pores as temperatures fluctuate.
“At 9,300 feet, rum is moving constantly into and out of the pores” of the barrels, Hoskin explains, so that “all of the rum in the barrel is getting more exposure to the oak, which is a key part of making a flavorful, smooth spirit,” Hoskin explains of Montanya’s high-altitude distilling process.
In addition, Montanya uses fresh American Oak casks from fellow Colorado micro-distillery Stranahan’s Whiskey from Denver, and gets its sugarcane only from Hawaii – making it a truly domestic rum.
But don’t let Montanya’s accolades as a Colorado-born spirit fool you.
“We don’t want people to buy our rum just because it’s a domestic product or just because it’s a Colorado product; we want people to buy Montanya rum because it’s one of the best rums they’ve tasted,” Hoskin says.
As I savor the remnants of my Montanya rum cocktail, I feel a swelling of gratitude. I have officially exited the rum-and-Coke box.
Montanya Rum will be featured at this weekend’s Telluride Festival of the Arts in Mountain Village, at the Grand Tasting on Saturday evening as well as at the VIP Patron’s tent on Thursday night. Montanya’s artisan cocktail crafters will also be sharing their behind-the-bar secrets in two rum seminars, Friday, Aug. 13, 3 p.m. at the Capella Hotel on Friday and at Saturday, Aug. 14, 3 p.m. at the Peaks Resort and Spa. Montanya Rum is available locally at Bottleworks, Spirits at Mountain Village, and the Wine Mine, as well as at Steaming Bean, The Butcher & The Baker, The Peaks, Capella, Tracks, Poacher's Pub, and Vaudeville Bar at the Sheridan Opera House. www.montanvarum.com