I love it when the little guy survives against the odds and ends up thriving. It’s the classic story of the underdog and I can’t help but think that applies to the story of Roundhouse Spirits. Started in 2008 in a small garage in Longmont, Colorado, Roundhouse first produced only gin, one micro batch at a time. They distilled each batch from grain neutral spirits and hand selected botanticals in a 3 gallon still. The batches were so small that some of the bontanicals measured only one increment on their scale. That meant they could easily add anywhere from half to double the amount they were wanting for each ingredient. This resulted in vast swings in the flavor profile for each batch (a single 6 bottle case).
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While some people loved this variation and micro batching, the distiller, Ted Palmer, definitely did not. You see, he hand bottled every batch. From filling to corking to labeling and sealing, it was all done with his two hands and bent back. But, don’t feel too bad for them yet. This is where the story gets really good. Roundhouse was met with glowing reviews and became popular. This has allowed the distillery to expand.
Moving to new digs in Boulder, complete with two stills, a brass and steel mash tun, storage room and, to Ted’s great appreciation, a small bottling line and labeler. This move has done a few things for Roundhouse. First, it’s allowed them to smooth out the wild variations in their product. Sure, you’ll still get variation since they’re producing small batches, but it won’t be nearly as wide as it was originally. Second, it’s allowed them to increase production. This is just plain good all around. Third, it’s allowed them to start experimenting and creating new products.
Roundhouse still produces their two core products. Roundhouse gin, their first and still flagship spirit, now has some credentials behind it. Since they started production, Roundhouse gin has won a gold medal from the International Review of Spirits and a bronze medal from the 2010 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Very nicely done! Corretto, their coffee liqueur, remains the best coffee liqueur I’ve ever sampled. It’s crisp and clean. They keep it lightly sweet by using really great coffee locally roasted at the Unseen Bean. This really good coffee keeps the bitterness down. Thus, less sugar is needed to tame it all.
In addition to these core spirits, Roundhouse is now producing two other offerings. Starting in March of 2011, in very small quantities, in Colorado only, you could get your hands on their Imperial Barrel Aged Gin. Ted summed this up really nicely when he said that a lot of the local bartenders call this ginskey. It combines the flavors of gin with the barrel aged flavors of a whiskey. As such, it plays really well, and extremely interestingly, in both gin and whiskey cocktails. Starting more or less right now (Nov 2011) Roundhouse will start offering an agave spirit. Can’t really call it tequila, so they’ve decided to call it Tatonka. Based on pure blue agave nectar this spirit is tremendously smooth while maintaining the agave flavors. Since Ted leaves out the heads, which some tequila producers leave in for added flavor, Tatonka has none of the drawbacks of traditional tequila and all the benefits.
There’s not a ton more for me to add to this success story beyond, well done, gents. Keep up the awesome work and keep the spirits flowing. If you’re interested you can tour the distillery Thursday – Saturday from 3:00pm – 7:00pm with no appointment needed. While you’re there sample some of the custom crafted cocktails. You can’t go wrong. As for getting your hands on a bottle, Roundhouse is now available in CO, TX, WY and MO. If you’re not in one of the distribution areas, though, fear not. They’re also available online.