A Great Whiskey for Beer Geeks: Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey

When we started this blog, I knew nothing about whiskey besides the fact that it all tasted like paint thinner, just different brands. But as Don kept posting whiskey reviews (remember when he used to do that? 🙂 ) I started to get curious.

I tried Knob Creek and liked it, and I bought some Makers to see if it was as bad as Don  claimed it was (it was), but my watershed whiskey moment came when Wild Turkey sent us each several samples of their fine products for an online tasting.   It was the first time I tasted several whiskeys at once and the light bulb went off in my head.  Suddenly I “got” what the whole whiskey deal was about.

Since then I’ve tried and enjoyed a handful of other whiskeys, but I still consider myself an enthusiastic novice.  And while I might lack the experience to do a big-time whiskey review like my boozy brother, I feel Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey is a special case, because it’s perfect for beer geeks who are “whiskey curious.”  

The simple, clean design of the bottle harkens back to the Old West

Stranahan’s is made with the same spirit that fuels the craft beer revolution. In this case they call it “artisinal distilling,” but the results are the same – unusual and creative beverages made will love and skill.  And while I appreciate what makes it different, it’s the kind of whiskey that makes some afficianados a little nuts.  It’s only aged about  two years.  It’s made in Colorado.  It doesn’t have a classic whiskey flavor profile.  I’m sure it’s a lot like when traditional German beer lovers tasted a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA for the first time – vas eez dees?  Zeez eez not Reinheitsgebot!!

One reason Stranahan’s might appeal to beer geeks is that it originally started out as beer.  Up until 2009, Stranahan’s used beer from their neighbor, the Flying Dog Brewery in Denver, Colorado, and distilled it into whiskey.  They have since started making their own wash (the wort of the whiskey world), but the malty beer influence is still apparent in the flavor.

This stuff is leggier than Kelly Brook

And what a flavor it is.  This stuff is smooth, with a gush of caramel, honey, and maple syrup up front, joined by a distinct malt character that is reminiscent of a Scottish ale.  The finish begins with a spiciness, and then fades into traditional tobacco and leather notes as it warms your chest.

Stranahan’s is 47 proof, which is plenty strong, especially for beer geeks, but it’s smooth enough for my wife to drink it neat without puckering up into her “whiskey face.”

It has the kind of cork you want to bite off and spit across the bar, cowboy-style!


Don typically reviews whiskeys neat, with a cube of ice and with a splash, but the only way to have Stranahan’s is by itself in a glass.  I tried adding a cube, and the smooth character quickly fell apart and the flavor became dominated by astringent tastes from the barrel.  I didn’t try it with a splash, but I assume the results would be the same.  Save your cubes, cowboy, and drink this one straight.

I could kill myself for not stopping in at Stranahan’s Distillery while Don and I were at GABF in Denver.  If we go back next year, it’ll be on the short list of “must visit” places.

Thank goodness one of us knows enough about whiskey to put Stranahan’s on the list. 😉





Categories: review, Whiskey


Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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20 Comments on “A Great Whiskey for Beer Geeks: Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey”

  1. December 24, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    Love Stranahan’s! Good whiskey made by good people…

    • December 24, 2010 at 12:12 pm #

      I’m really living this artisinal stuff, Rich. Can’t wait to see what you folks at New Holland have cooked up.

  2. December 24, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    Contrary to Dons belief Makers doesn’t suck (think Brooklyn Brewing) . Its a gateway bourbon. It has led me to Woodford reserve which led to Blantons, Black Maple Hill and then AH Hirsch. Now I’m drinking George Stagg straight (not reccomended to noobs). So quit bad mouthing a fine whiskey. Merry Chistmas Guys!

    • December 24, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

      Well you know Don’s an Idiot, so take his opinion with a grain of salt, John. 😉

      I would love to get my hands on some Stagg, but have struck out thus far. It’s the big dog of the Bourbon world.

      Have a great holiday!

      • December 24, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

        I have bought a bottle every year since they came out mind you I drank them all as well except for a wee bit of last years. I got the last one in the local store wednesday.

        • December 24, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

          Nice score John. I love to get the last one. I’m a big believer in eating the last candy or taking the last piece of pizza as well – otherwise they just sit there while people are painfully polite. My selfishness takes the stress out of the picture. 🙂

      • Don
        December 27, 2010 at 11:10 am #

        You have no compunction about taking the last of anything because you are the youngest. You always got the last of everything! If you didn’t take the last one, you wouldn’t ever get anything!

  3. December 24, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

    Stranahans is great!

    Full Sail aged their imp. porter in Makers, Stranahans and 4 Roses casks, then blended them. They had the three straight, alongside the blend as a taster at the pub. That was a fantastic experience- you could really see where the different parts of the character came from. Makers was all vanilla and oak, 4 Roses was nutty and almost tropical, and Stranahans was spicy fire with just a bit of oak.

    • December 24, 2010 at 1:04 pm #

      I love Four Roses, really liked Stranahan’s and enjoyed Makers 46 (but not the original). Sounds like a real treat Gordon. I wish I’d been there. 🙂

  4. December 24, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    Ho Ho Ho Jimbo!

    What’s not to love about a whiskey that comes with it’s own shot glass? My neighbor bought a bottle of Stranahans a couple years ago. Considering how long it’s aged and the fact that Stranahans has only been around for a very short time, they make a damn fine whiskey! And I’m with you on the drinking it straight thing. The only time I add water is when the ABV climbs over 50%. Water and ice dilutes the flavor too much for my taste.

    Nice review by the way. Don better be careful or you might go from “Beer and Whiskey Brothers” to “Beer and Whiskey Guy”. 😉

    Feliz Navidad!

    • December 24, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

      Yo, G-LO!

      I’m usually a cube of ice guy, but as the proof lowers, the need for ice does as well. Also, I find more and more I like my whiskey straight regardless of proof. Maybe I’ll get some chest hair yet!

  5. Chris
    December 24, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

    I love the term “enthusiastic novice”! That’s what I consider myself when it comes to the world of beer. Better late to the game than not there at all!

    Merry Christmas!

    • December 24, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

      I agree, better late than never.

      It’s not what you know, it’s your willingness to try new stuff!

      Have a terrific holiday.

  6. December 25, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

    Gotta get some of this…not a big Maker’s fan myself, and that assertion sometimes draws sneers from the folks around here. Though, they’re not unlike people who think Guinness is the best beer in the world…

    • December 25, 2010 at 6:09 pm #

      I think you’re right, Makers can be a “dead pool” drink like Guinness, one folks get stuck in thinking it’s the pinnacle of goodness. If that’s what they like it’s fine by me, but I think in both cases there’s better stuff to discover.

      -Sent from my iPad (so there, Don!)

      • Don
        December 27, 2010 at 11:13 am #

        What’s this I hear of an iPad…that is so December 11th!

  7. Brandon
    December 26, 2010 at 8:11 pm #

    I think me and Don broke up. He doesn’t stalk me on twitter any more. I guess I’ll have to send him some more cigars. This whiskey sounds good. I’ll have to see if my booze store has it.

    • Don
      December 27, 2010 at 10:35 am #

      No Way Brandon, You can’t get away from me that easy! I’ve been incredibly busy. Work usually slows down around the holidays for us, but this year things are going absolutely nuts! I suppose that is a good thing really, and I’m not complaining about being busy, but Jim will attest to the fact that I am having trouble balancing work and blog. The blog stuff I love, but work has to come first when it demands it. So that is what has been happening to me over the last few months. But to put your mind at ease Brandon, I will let you know that I smoked a great cigar on Christmas night with my son. I had an Olive Serie V Maduro. My understanding is that the maduro only comes out once a year and it was very nice. The typical thick buttery smoke with a great leathery flavor and a very full body. Not too much spice, which I like, and an overall great cigar. I paired it with Unita Brewing’s Labrynth. Which is a great black ale that is aged in bourbon barrels with licorice added. WOW. great stuff!

      So yes Brandon, there is a Santa Clause, and We are still as hot and heavy as we ever were! 😉

  8. Don
    December 27, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    BTW Jim, I think My whiskey review status is intact. Stranahan’s 47% ABV, and 94 Proof! not 47 proof as you stated above.


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    […] possibility that he drinks local when it comes to whiskey – maybe there’s a bottle of Stranahans in his liquor cabinet that he pulls out to nurse the bumps and bruises that come with a bad day at […]

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