09/04/2022 Colorado-based Spirit Hound Distillers was awarded Whisky of the Year earlier this week at the leading international London Spirits Competition for its Straight Malt Whisky, receiving the highest quality rating of any US-based spirit.
Colorado-based Spirit Hound Distillers was awarded Whisky of the Year last week at the leading international London Spirits Competition for its Straight Malt Whisky, receiving the highest quality rating of any US-based spirit.
“It’s a significant step in validating the level of quality of the product that we make here at Spirit Hound Distillers,” said co-founder, co-owner, and head distiller Craig Engelhorn on hearing the news.
“We're just about 10 years old, in a state with no distillery much over 20 years old, so in distillery years, we're still infants. This is proof that our commitment to using Colorado grain, mashing and distilling on our own handmade equipment, with unconditional love for the craft is paying off.”
Spirit Hound produced its first wash at the end of 2012, and after surviving a “catastrophic” flood in 2013 released its Straight Malt Whisky in 2015. The 100% malt whisky, is described as “straight” because it abides by the US rules which determine that whisky needs to age for a minimum of two years, which Spirit Hound does exclusively in full-size barrels. “It was hard to be patient, but it has paid off. We're basically exclusively in Colorado, with a fast-growing brand in our market,” added Englehorn.
So, what does he think so impressed the judging panel of the London Spirits Competition? “We have subtle hints of peat - no hot bike tyre - but enough for peat enthusiasts to appreciate, and not too much for non-peat lovers to approach. We are typically a relatively delicate spirit, with notes of honey, dates, figs, and butterscotch.” And boosted by their win, Engelhorn has big plans for the future of the brand.
“We're capitalizing for growth and have just hired Brad Stevenson as our CEO to help us negotiate an aggressive growth path,” he says. “Brad comes to us from Founder's Brewing in Grand Rapids MI, currently the sixth-largest brewer in the US - a company that grew significantly over the last 12 years. We want to be able to bring our outstanding products into the hands of more people!” And this accolade from the London Spirits Competition will certainly help to that end.
The London Spirits Competition, now in its fifth year, is a highly regarded international spirits event organized by Beverage Trade Network that seeks to recognize the very best in spirits from around the world that not only taste great – but also have attractive and functional packaging and are commercially viable, ticking all the boxes that a trade buyer would typically look for.
The winning whisky is made with ingredients local to Colorado and distilled the ‘Spirit Hound way’ on two stills designed and built by hand by Engelhorn himself. The Straight Malt Whisky features an all-malt recipe made with Colorado-produced malted barley and a dash of peat-smoked malt barley, all grown and malted in small batches by the Colorado Malting Company. Aged for more than two years in new, fully charred American oak barrels before being bottled in an unblended, single-barrel fashion, Spirit Hound’s Straight Malt Whisky features aromas of oak, toffee, caramel, turbinado sugar, light smoke, and a silky body.
Engelhorn adds that he and his team like to take traditional and classic recipes and breathe new life into them via local, hand-picked ingredients distilled through hand-built-from-scratch stills and distillation equipment in search of one-of-a-kind processes and flavors.
“Our Single Malt Whisky was the inspiration for the distillery. We set out with a mission to make a delicious, all-Colorado whisky and we’re proud to be here 10 years later, earning international awards,” says Engelhorn. “The London Spirits Competition is internationally recognized as one of the most prestigious, top competitions. It is such an honor to be recognized among such a strong representation of spirits from around the world.”
In addition to Spirit Hound’s Straight Malt Whisky winning Whisky of the Year and Best in Show by Country, the distillery also received a silver medal and 78 points for its Barrel-Finished Gin and a bronze medal and 75 points for its Rye Whisky.
Image: Spirit Hound’s Straight Malt Whisky winning Whisky of the Year and Best Show by Country in London Spirits Competition - 2022
The London Spirits Competition saw the highest number of entrants from the UK at 447, followed by 323 from Australia and 160 from the US. 771 Gins made Gin the top category entrant followed by Whiskey and Rum.
Currently, Spirit Hound products are available in Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska.