Mixed in an oversized Mason jar and served with skewered banana peppers, pickled okra, tangy pickles, and an asparagus spear, this Bloody Mary could be the most humbling cocktail you’ve ever had. Made with the distillery’s own handcrafted Goat Vodka, they pack a formidable, yet flavorsome punch – especially when paired with Peach Street’s other wares, including fruit brandies and the soon-to-be-released Colorado Bourbon and Jackalope Gin.
A Peach Street Bloody Mary is, in a sense, much like the distillery itself: unruly on the outside, with a touch of the refined on the inside.
“Vodka doesn’t have to have that rubbing alcohol taste,” explains co-owner and distiller Rory Donovan. “This is not something you just mix with cranberry juice and throw back,” he says of Peach Street’s vodka, first released in the fall of 2005. “It has character and body.”
Goat Vodka, available from all of Telluride’s liquor stores, is something of an anomaly. First, it is made regionally, from Olathe sweet corn (not potatoes). Second, it is handcrafted in small batches, creating a boutique product, as opposed to the mass production of other labels. And last, it is possible to sip this vodka without grimacing.
“To make good spirits is an art,” Donovan says. Watching him in action at the distillery, bounding from still to cask and back again, all the while spewing a litany of information about the production of alcohol, it is clear Donovan is indeed emotionally attached to the crafting of fine spirits.
“How many bourbons can you sit around and drink like a scotch?” he asks, swirling an ice cube in a small shooter of Peach Street’s new bourbon. “We don’t sell anything I’m not [expletive] proud of.”
Peach Street Distillery uses a blend of only the finest barley and wheat grains, combined with the famed sweet corn of Olathe, in creating Goat Vodka. The grain and corn mash goes through two initial distillations and one charcoal filtration to ensure purity, followed by a third distillation and a final charcoal filtration.
In Peach Street’s peach vodka, Palisade’s own renowned fruit is used; for the distillery’s Jack and Jenny Eau-de-vies, the distillers use cherries, apricots, pears, plums, and peaches, all grown locally. The new Jackalope Gin is created from local juniper berries harvested in the wild.
“We believe that if you put good stuff in a barrel, at the right climate and using the right techniques, you’ll get good stuff out,” says Donovan.
Peach Street Distillers represents a new movement in American distilling, explains Donavan. “Craft distilling is beginning to do what micro-brewing did to the industry 15 years ago.”
Micro-brewed beer did, in fact, play a role in Peach Street’s evolution. The Palisade distillery actually got its start on the other side of the San Juans, in Durango at the Ska Brewing Company. Ska founders Dave Thibodeau and Bill Graham started brewing beer in five-gallon buckets, before opening the brewery in 1995. Now, the two brew 20,000 barrels of beer each year. While living in Durango during that period, Donovan became good friends with Thibodeau and Graham. All lovers of fine spirits, the threesome eventually began exploring the idea of making liquor.
After a trip to Michigan for a workshop on distilling, Donovan was convinced that, along with Thibodeau and Graham’s brewing expertise, they could make booze as good as anything found in a $50 bottle. And thus, Peach Street Distillery was born.
“It’s easy to throw yeast on wheat and make alcohol – what’s difficult is making a good beer consistently,” Donovan says. “Dave and Bill know the art of fermentation. Being able to draw on their experiences was invaluable.”
Palisade materialized as the perfect location for the new business venture, with its cool nights, warm days and low humidity creating ideal conditions for growing the many types of fruits used in the liquor – as well as for distilling alcohol.
“We enjoy being a part of the synergy of Palisade,” Donovan says, referring to the community’s increasing number of winemakers who have created their own tourism industry at the foot of Grand Mesa.
Peach Street Distillery is located at 144 S. Kluge Ave. in downtown Palisade, and is open Monday through Saturday for tastings – as well as for one of those humbling Bloody Marys.