Saturday, February 25, 2012

DownSlope Distilling, Centennial Colo.

It seems like everyone really enjoys the posts I do regarding distillation and spirits so when I got the opportunity to hit up a semi-local distillery, I jumped.

The whole thing was really not planned, so I apologize for not having the best pictures in the world.

A few months ago I brought you the Double Diamond Whiskey from DownSlope distilling in Centennial Colorado. It was smooth, unique and well rounded.

Mitch shows us the aging barrels
On the tour I leaned that it is because the Double Diamond is made with Marris Otter malt. A favorite of homebrewers. To that golden grain of my dreams, they add a touch of Rye and then age it in used oak barrels. The finished product is then blended and bottled right on site.

I should mention that DownSlope is one of very few Colorado companies that actually distills their own product. Some of the “Colorado” spirits on the shelves are actually spirits purchased from a large distillery and bottled in Colorado. These products can be good, but in my limited experience, tend to be a bit inferior.

Mitch, the still master at DownSlope had just finished pumping 220 gallons of the fermented wort into the custom built copper still when I arrived.

The copper still at DownSlope has a 220 gallon capacity
The still, unlike some smaller units that you find, is neither electric nor fire powered. This still has steam coils built into the boil pot that allow for very quick and precise temperature adjustments.

As we continued past the fermentors we arrived at a second still.

This one was nothing like the large copper monster in the corner. It was a small 45 gallon drum with something I recognized on top.

45 gallons of Rum Production

There was a two plate “Flute” section on the bottom with a large Mile High reflux column on top of that. The reflux column is packed with alternating layers of copper mesh and unglazed ceramic pellets called rasching rings.

This column packing allows some of the steam to condense and trickle back down the packing. As the droplets travel down, the hot steam headed up, pulls the alcohol out of the droplets, and the droplets collect water from the steam.  This system produces a very pure distillate.

This smaller electric fired still is used to produce their vodka and rum.

The rum is made from 100% Hawaiian Cain Juice, it’s just evaporated before shipping. This sugar source looks very raw and has some of the characteristics of “Turbanado” sugar that you get at the grocery store. It’s just far less processed.

After the rum wash has fermented and been transferred into the little still, a second product is made.

In the USA, Vodka can be made from anything. Heck, there is even a guy making it from day-old donuts. But at DownSlope they are making it from RUM!

As the still heats up and the alcohol starts to flow, the very pure alcohol is kept and bottled as Cane Vodka. When the proof drops below 190, the Rum production begins.

By the time we finished our tour, the copper pot still had heated up and began to flow.

The “stripping run” is the first run of the alcohol just to get it concentrated down a bit, and that was what was happening when I was there. I got to sample a taste of the fresh whiskey right off the still, and it was actually very good, but it will be distilled again to purify the flavors and then aged before bottling and shipping.

The line of rums that I sampled at the distillery were all wonderful with two shining standouts. The Wine barrel aged rum is aged in used wine barrels that are individually numbered. That number is then had written on every bottle that leaves the door. These are one-off batches and really caught my attention.

The second rum that was a very pleasant surprise was the Vanilla. Spending only hours “On the bean” as they say, this rum is neither sweet nor overwhelming. With just enough vanilla to be distinct, the rum flavors are not hidden by the addition. The very light golden hue is as pleasing to look at in the bottle as it is to sip from a glass.

I ended up leaving with a bottle of white rum and a bottle of the wine barrel aged rum that I look forward to  sharing with you at a later date.

With the varied line of spirits that Downslope produces, and the fact that some of their products are ever changing, I suspect I will be stopping in from time to time and picking up a few bottles to keep the Rum Collection stocked with a little something local!


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