More Bad News at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey

UPDATE 2/1/12: Stranahan’s new Master Distiller Rob Dietrich dropped us a note in the comments below, ensuring us that all is well at Stranahans.  We hope so!  We were so impressed with Rob’s words, that we gave him his own post!

There are changes happening at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, and I’m afraid we may be witnessing the evisceration of a micro distillery pioneer.  As I discussed before Stranahan’s had been acquired by Proximo Beverage, a huge multinational conglomerate that was promising to take Stranahan’s global (at least I would get it back here in Idaho again).  Not long after the two owners took a powder.  Suppose they didn’t like the new philosophies that a new owner brings to the scene.  Well that was ok, at least they still had their Master Distiller.  Afterall he is in charge of production, so who cares who owns the place, right?

Well that all changed a couple weeks ago when Master Distiller Jake Norris said goodbye to Strananhan’s Colorado Whiskey.  I guess as the saying goes, crap flows down hill and he didn’t need or want it.  So now we are left with new ownership, a new Master Distiller, Rob Dietrich who previously worked for Jake.  The plant manager assures us that nothing will change, they will still use the same recipes, etc, but you can taste a man’s soul in a bottle of whiskey, and Jake had a good one.  Now I’m not saying all hope is lost and we should turn out the lights and close the door, but the jury is still way out on what Rob Dietrich might produce, and we could see something worse.  Conversely, we could see something better too.

Whiskey people don’t like change, because change might end up cheapening or somehow making their favorite whiskeys worse for the wear.  But one thing is certain, things are changing at Stranahan’s and it doesn’t look too good right now.  Let’s hope Mr Dietrich knows his stuff, and Stranahan’s will continue to make Colorado and the Micro distillery movement proud.

What do you think?  Let us know in the comments.

-Don

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33 Comments on “More Bad News at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey”

  1. September 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    It would be a shame if you could finally get it in Idaho only to have it suck.

    Best load up now, folks…

  2. Todd
    September 8, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    I agree with Jim, “load up now.”

  3. Don
    September 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm #

    You’ve got a little time. This stuff ages for four years, all this has happened within the last couple months. The way I see it is there is still 3 years of good stranahan’s whiskey out there.

    • October 30, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

      Rob McCulloch here {Semi-Retired Master Distiller http://www.GreenRiverWhiskey.com We hope to partner with a company like Proximo Beverage and Distill the best most popular Whiskey again. Our Distillery close to the Ohio River was too small for the brands potential and it sounds like Stranahan’s has great potential . You can not rush Whiskey. CB 937-725-5588

  4. September 8, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    Learned it on good authority that all of their used barrels are going exclusively to Breckenridge from now on. Good thing for getting more of their incredible 20th anniversary ESB, bad thing for all of the other brewers out there who make incredible brews with them.

    • Don
      September 8, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

      So when is Breckenridge going to start to shipping to Idaho? C’mon!

  5. Eric
    September 9, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    So many naysayers on this here internet… Jumping ship at the sight of a mere wave. Didn’t our mommas teach us to not judge a book by its cover? They would be ashamed. How about everyone checks out the latest from Westword, an interview with Rob:

    http://blogs.westword.com/cafesociety/2011/09/stranahans_rob.php

    I know its big that Jake left. Its not ideal. But as someone who knows both Jake and Rob, I am fully confident in Rob’s abilities and character, and am completely satisfied with Proximo’s decision to name him Head Distiller. So have a little faith.

    I can understand everyone’s reactions here in Colorado a little better… But I don’t know why people in other states have their panties in a twist anyway. 99% of whiskeys are owned by larger companies as is and we all still drink them. This was bound to happen. At least this way you’ll soon be able to get some in Idaho.

    • September 9, 2011 at 11:27 am #

      I think that’s what Don said – if the whiskey’s good, it’s all good. Not being in the inner circle, it’s hard for us to know how things will turn out.

    • Don
      September 9, 2011 at 11:28 am #

      Very good points Eric. I did say that it could actually be a good thing, but the jury is still out. I think the reason Stranahan’s gets more attention is because of its status withing the artisan distilling movement. They were one of the first, so they get a lot of attention. Also they have a great product, so they get a lot of attention for that too. I understand completely that whiskey is in no way like beer, and that being bought by a larger company isn’t the end of the world. That said i would feel much more comfortable if they were purchased by Brown Foreman or Buffalo Trace or Heaven Hill than by Proximo. So what you are reading about is concern, not imminent failure, but concern that the product may suffer. That is all.

      I am happy you commented, and will read Westwords article with great interest. Thanks for posting it, and don’t be a stranger around these parts. We always need well reasoned people to chime in from time to time. :)

  6. Eric
    September 9, 2011 at 11:29 am #

    Sorry, I know that seemed harsh. It wasn’t as much directed at this post as some other negative ones that I have read recently. This one was just the straw…

    At least in this post you acknowledge that Rob could possibly be a good distiller. I guess I get frustrated with all of this speculation and that Stranahan’s seems to be held to a much higher standard than other whiskeys we chose to purchase, all of which (again) are owned by large companies.

    Whatever happens, Jake is great guy and I’m sure he will do many more great things. Rob is another outstanding fellow and I look forward to seeing what he does. And the most important thing is that what’s in the bottle currently is still some damn fine whiskey. So let’s drink up! Cheers!

    • Don
      September 9, 2011 at 11:47 am #

      I don’t know Rob, so I don’t know if he will be a good distiller, a great distiller, or a bad distiller. There is no history there. Only time will tell, and I hope he is an excellent distiller, the world needs more great whiskey. I hope he can stay as passionate about the whiskey as he was in the article. If he can I’m pretty sure we have no worries. :)

  7. Evi
    October 21, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

    Please please please who sells it in the NYC area?? I can’t find it anywhere! One place had it but no longer does. Help!

    • Don
      October 21, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

      No one right now Evi. Unfortunately Stranahans has pulled back on their distribution to concentrate on their local market, and I believe since their sale to Proximo Beverage they are planning to increase production to serve other markets, but this takes several years because it has to age. And unlike many larger distilleries they really can’t contract distill this stuff because of its unique mash bill and flavor profile. So, we wait!

  8. Evi
    October 21, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

    Oh no!!!! How dissapointing but well worth the wait. Please let me know when back in NYC! Enjoyed the last bottle so much I should have kept it around a little longer had I known or purchased more. Thanks for the feedback Don. And so now I wait.

    • Don
      October 21, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

      One other possibility is if you know someone in Colorado, they could send you one.

    • October 21, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

      There’s always the Internet…

  9. Evi
    October 24, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

    Guess what boys! Found one today in NYC!!! So happy!!!!! Thanks for the suggestions!!!! It’ll hold me over until I can get an order in. Cheers!

  10. scott sailor
    November 1, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    Evi – maybe this is where you got it but if not it’s a good place to know about, they have an incredible selection and discounted pricing: http://www.bqewineandliquors.com/

  11. November 5, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    I just visited Colorado this past month and knowing nothing about Stranahan’s wanted to try some local Colorado whiskey. And I loved it. The man behind the counter at the store though told me that Stanahan’s was “hard to come by” which I thought was strange, but which this article explains…. Now come to my local liquor store in Texas and I see a bottle of Breckenridge Colorado Whiskey with the same motif and similar packaging, and the whiskey connoisseur there told me that “Stanahan’s ran out so Breckenridge took over.” This doesn’t make much sense to me… is it the same thing? what’s going on here?

    • November 6, 2011 at 9:57 am #

      I think they were referring to the distributor to your state started carrying Breckenridge Distillers because they couldn’t get Stranahans. To the best of my knowledge, the two are in no way related; and to confuse matters worse, even though Stranahans partners with Breckenridge Brewery on brews, I’m fairly sure BB isn’t related to BD.

      As far as the packaging being similar, it’s the old case of copying a winning product. We have a lot of distillers here in Colorado, and from what I’ve seen, only a few of them don’t try to copy Stranahans’ packaging.

      I just picked up a bottle of Stranahans a couple of weeks ago, and the liquor store I bought it at, here in Denver, had plenty; the bottle I got was distilled in 2009, so chances are good you can get a presale bottle, if you can find it. You may want to take another trip to Colorado. ;)

    • Don
      November 7, 2011 at 10:12 am #

      No. Totally different whiskeys. I think what he was referring to was distribution, not the whiskey itself. Stranahans has cut back on distribution to just Colorado and a couple other large markets. I believe one of them is Chicago, and I’m not sure of the other. Although they have been very tight lipped as to their intent, I think they might be amping up production in an attempt to reintroduce the brand on a much grander scale. This would fit with Proximo’s MO to take this brand national. Just a guess there, however.

  12. Brandon
    November 17, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    Hey there. I live in NYC am and bringing some back on Sunday. I’d be happy to grab you some if you’d like. Ill be leaving for nyc on Saturday. Care sharing where you found some in NYC?

  13. GAHLONS
    December 7, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    We can’t even get it in MN now…. Everyone is out of stock. Luckily we have relatives in Evergreen that can shop for us. And another family member that travels there every 3 months.

  14. Dennis
    January 4, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    Just found a place in Brooklyn, NY that appears to carry it. But they don’t ship outside NY. http://www.longswines.com/spirits/Stranahan-Colorado-Whiskey-w08593465p
    I’m in Seattle, so keeping an eye on the US distillery business. We have a distillery up here in Woodinville that is producing Grappa, so maybe whisky is close!

  15. January 30, 2012 at 3:00 am #

    Hello all,
    Glad to see the passion and support still burning brightly for this fine whiskey.
    I had some big (gigantic!)shoes to fill when Jake left the building, and tossed and turned many a night as to what the future would bring with the new ownership and what my role in this wood-soaked saga would really be.
    I cut my teeth in the industry on Jake’s watch, hired on as the first night distiller and midnight ninja (which required BB gun sniper skills (mice), multi-tasking (sleeping on a cot next to the still with my dog on fireman’s hours, while maintaining the stills) and the random requisitions,(Flying dog Brewery beer leftovers) while learning much from him and experimenting on my own as well. I couldn’t have picked a better time, place or person to learn this craft.

    The gist of it is, this whiskey sells itself. It’s freakin’ amazing. I love it. I would never change it.
    Pioneers before me created a masterpiece; my job as the current steward is to maintain its beauty.
    That being said; yeah, the times, they are a changin’-as they always do, whether we like it or not. The building is being renovated, production being first in line (thank you Jebus, for more clamps, valves and hoses!) and what we are doing is making more whiskey, faster.
    An oxymoron, I know.
    But it boils down to this: More fermenters, more stills, more barrels. The recipe doesn’t change, the aging doesn’t change, we just make more-which is a good thing.
    My apologies to the outer states-we’re only distributing in Colorado right now, with good standing that we will distribute nation-wide once again when we can catch up with aging.

    So, that being said…

    Before the torch of head distiller was passed, I was the barrel manager. Not an unpleasant job…but, as I was fond of saying and still say; I’m always living in the past, present and future.

    What was barreled in the past, affects our present. What is barreled now, affects our future. What we currently harvest, affects everything.
    I am so VERY careful as to how that turns out- because I love whiskey as much as all of you…and I fucking love THIS whiskey.

    I still have beers with Jake every week, if I can. I still sit at my local when I can and I don’t always drink what I make. I love what I do, I drink to my mood, but generally it’s whiskey and it’s usually THIS whiskey. Can’t help it-I’ve grown accustomed to its face.

    I wax poetic and long. My apologies, but can’t help it; I’m old school and don’t blog. I write letters with a typewriter, work on my own cars, make my own liquor; I’m a combat veteran and generally stay away from people. I’m still getting used to it all.
    Thanks for staying strong, for being patient and I will do my best to get to you the finest malt-barley whiskey this side of the wide Mississippi.
    Cheers,
    Rob Dietrich

    • January 31, 2012 at 11:42 am #

      Thanks Rob, it’s sounds like we won’t have anything to worry about Strannies as long as you’re at the helm. I thank my lucky stars that I live in Colorado and am able to drink not only outstanding craft beer, but also your whiskey, which I think is the absolute best; I’ve got two bottles of it at home and enjoy it as often as I can.

      If the number of people coming in to the Rackhouse is any indication, the demand will only increase.

      Can’t wait for your collaboration with Breck to come out this month. If it’s anything like the 20th ESB, it’ll be heavenly!

  16. Michael Ekblad
    March 29, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Don, I think you should see where this goes. Sure, it may go downhil, but how do you know unless you try? I agree that whiskey should never change but as you said, you can taste a man’s soul in his whiskey. For what it is worth, since I dont know you, I believe in you all, and I never will stop, comming from an old whiskey-brewing family in ireland I know how important it is to keep the traditions going, and I always show my support even for competitors because it is not up to us to say whos whiskey fits whom, people will find it out when it is time.

    Take care

  17. Peter
    April 5, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    brought a bottle back from winter park last year.- went down very well with family and friends. they also liked the old style bottle – bringing another back from copper mountain next week – how can i get a crate sent to family in uk?

  18. May 27, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    I had a bottle lat night, same great taste and most of all it hasn’t changed since my last bottle 2 years ago, ,I met Rob and he makes me want to take my whiskey knowledge to a new level, the guy is amazing! Passionate and the salt of the earth, he clearly works hard to produce a consistent and smooth whiskey.
    Yes change is coming but so is greatness.

  19. Kimi
    September 28, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    9/27/12: I’m a scotch drinker and prefer thesingle malt sherry aged or a similiar single malt blend. Tonight I was offered a free tasting of the Stranahans and thought I had died and gone to heaven! I was unaware of the change at the distillery bu what I had was surely the product from Jake, the original Master distiller. When did the buyout actually occur? If anyone out there knows or can tell me how the new product measures up, please let me know because I want to order a lot to be sent to me!

  20. December 9, 2012 at 5:27 am #

    I live and work in Denver, CO. I agree with the article and virtually everything in response. I, like you know that when big corporations take over in wine, beer or spirits… it generally means a decline in quality as the price remains the same. Stranahan’s will always be the Colorado first, but I can tell you “Dancing Pines” from Loveland, CO is next to win this state over. Smaller batch, higher quality, and we don’t have to worry about them selling out for some time. You’ll forget all about Stranny’s…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. GTWF Ep 55: Double Cinco | Getting Tanked With Frank - September 14, 2011

    [...] Bad news in Colorado [...]

  2. Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey: Great Whiskey Is Still The Priority | Beer & Whiskey Brothers Blog - January 31, 2012

    [...] Time does change many things, but here is to hoping that time won’t change a thing about Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey.  There have been a lot of internal changes taking place at Stranahan’s.  A while back they were bought out by a multi-national conglomerate in the spirits industry called Proximo Beverage.  Then they contracted into just Colorado, and people wanted to know what was going on.  Then what seemed quite foreboding was the resignation of their Master Distiller Jake Norris.  Who was going to make the whiskey?  What was going to happen to this home grown distillery?  Were we headed down a bad path?  I put my fears out there in a couple of posts.  First I talked about their take over here.  Then I talked in much darker terms about the take over here, after Jake resigned. [...]

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