So, in March, when Noelle Hale reached out to me to tell me all about Holladay Distillery in Missouri, I expected more of the same. Of course, it all begins with a story, doesn’t it? Back in the 1850s, Kentuckian Ben Holladay knew exactly what the limestone springs in Weston, MO were good for, and he made good use of it. Ben’s distillery, the oldest business in the Kansas City area, underwent a $10 million renovation in 2015 and started distilling bourbon again for the first time in three decades. Would I like to try their first release, a 6-year bottled-in-bond, real Missouri bourbon?
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Back in 2017 I covered the amazing journey of Michael Myers from east coast photographer to Rocky Mountains distiller. At the time, Distillery 291 was winning medals and garnering praise from a couple influential whiskey figures, but was still an off-the-radar craft distiller in a crowded and trendy field. Over the years, 291 has continued to grow and establish itself as a major Colorado whiskey brand.
Perhaps the clarity of vision Myers always held for Distillery 291 should come as no surprise from the former New York photographer. He wouldn’t hear of sourcing from someone else. They would create unique Colorado whiskeys that would be authentic from the beginning. Even when I tried the Colorado Rye Whiskey that was just over a year old, I couldn’t believe how good it was.
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In a field of what ended up being six rye whiskies, two stood out above the rest. The ultimate winner was Booker’s Rye, currently an $850 bottle. The consensus runner-up was a 3-year rye from a then-relatively unknown new distillery called “Wilderness Trail,” who had just released their first 4-year rye that same day. I was stunned and couldn’t believe that a $60 3-year craft rye whiskey would excel amidst a group of well-known and established brands, including a couple private picks. I don’t need many fingers to count how many craft distilleries I’ve gotten intrigued about, but this definitely was one of them.