Celebrating five years with Distillery 291

The numbers “291” have special meaning for distiller and owner of Distillery 291 Michael Myers.

First of all, he has great reverence for Alfred Stieglitz’s famous Gallery 291 in Manhattan, where he once lived and worked as a fashion and beauty photographer, and the numbers also serendipitously served as his college dorm room number.

And with five-year anniversary events coming up this week, it’s time to look back to when Myers and 291 launched Colorado Springs’ distilling scene, creating a line of whiskeys, bourbons and ryes to convince even the non-whiskey drinkers of the world, that yes … yes, you actually do like whiskey.

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A photograph of Sam Elliott by Michael Myers

291 Fresh was ironically created for people who don’t enjoy their spirit, but it will hide in a gin-, vodka- or tequila-based cocktail while you’re none the wiser to what you’re actually sippin’ on. That serves as the base for 291’s famous “Whiskarita” which will confuse and delight your margarita desires.

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Do you see whiskey in this drink?

291 Colorado whiskey is aged for three months in American white oak with aspen staves, producing notes of floral, citrus and freshly cut leather. Its  Colorado bourbon whiskey is aged for two years, and with an 80 percent corn mash bill it adhere’s to a philosophy of distilling in the classic, Western, pre-Prohibition style.

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Considered a “white rye,” 291 White Dog is essentially moonshine, aged for less than a week. Then 291 rounds out its line of loveliness with a citrus, clove liqueur: the DECC. Myers created the first batch in his Mr. Coffee pot while attending Still on the Hill in Breckenridge. He planned on serving up whiskaritas but when it snowed unexpectedly he decided on something more appropriate for a mountain flask. (Thus the name, because if you have too much, you’ll hit the deck.)

291 has already grabbed some prestigious awards, winning the People’s Choice Award at the  Breckenridge Craft Spirits Festival consecutively in 2014 and 2015. This year 291 brought home double gold from San Francisco World Spirits Competition for its bourbon whiskey and won the American whiskey category at the World Whiskies Awards for its Colorado whiskey. Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, arguably the world’s leading whiskey guide, called 291’s bourbon in 2014, “arguably the most astonishing whiskey of its age worldwide this year.  That whisky just a year old can be this good is obscene.”

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Gold shaker set = VIP treatment

For a process that can take years in itself to produce just one great spirit, 291 is producing satisfying, frontier-style whiskey which, according to Murray, is “whiskey which ticks every box: they are obviously fast learners.”

Five-year anniversary events will take place this week to celebrate the milestone: “The past five years have been an amazing journey for Distillery 291,” says Myers to the Food Report. “I set out to make the best western whiskey that I could, and I feel very lucky that I get to share my vision with the Colorado Springs community.”

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From the press release:

“Distillery 291 announces four days of events located in the tasting room to celebrate its fifth anniversary. Events will run from 5-11pm from September 7-10th. Each night will feature food from local chefs, drink specials and an unique experience of the brand.

Wednesday, September 7th will be in celebration of Distillery 291’s legendary Whiskarita. Whiskarita Wednesday will include $5 Whiskaritas all night and complimentary ceviche from TILL while it lasts. A Whiskarita is similar to a traditional margarita, but uses the clear spirit, 291 Fresh, in place of the tequila.

Thursday, September 8th will celebrate whiskey the western way. Distillery 291 is partnering with the Independent Film Society of Colorado (IFSOC) to show the film that was part of the 291 inspiration; Rooster Cogburn. Show time will be at 7pm at the distillery. There will be complimentary bacon popcorn from Brother Luck while it lasts. The patron who wears the best western outfit will be awarded with a prize.

Friday, September 9th will open the back patio for the first time in Distillery 291 history, for the Decc party. The Decc liqueur will be featured in special cocktails. Local musician, Grant Sabin will play on the patio from 7-10pm. Food will also be available. An award will be given to the person who wears the best neon ski outfit.

Saturday, September 10th punctuates the celebratory week with the Fancy as F*ck party. It’s been an ongoing tradition for a few of those who frequent the distillery, to get dressed up in their best outfits and enjoy fine whiskey. There is no dress code for entry, but guests are encouraged to join the festivities by wearing their fanciest outfit. Complimentary food will be available while it lasts and there will be special drink offerings.”

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[Images: Dionne Roberts]