Laws Whiskey House concentrates on one premium product: four-grain bourbon — Photo courtesy of Laws Whiskey House
There's a reason you don't see much four-grain bourbon on the market. It's a complex process that takes time and isn't inexpensive. The results, however, make that irrelevant, and results are what bourbon-lovers are talking about.
Enter Laws Whiskey House.
Founded by Al Laws and opened in southeast Denver in fall 2014, this distillery focuses on one result: four-grain bourbon made the old-fashioned way from scratch in small batches. It's open for tours and tastings, a treat for any whiskey aficionado.
Al Laws, left, and Jake Norris are committed to "slow bourbon," whiskey made the old-fashioned way with no shortcuts — Photo courtesy of Laws Whiskey House
Jake Norris, head distiller, calls Laws Whiskey House a "grain-to-bottle facility," meaning every step of the process is done in house, including milling and cooking the grain, fermenting and distilling.
"We are the real thing, 100 percent authentic and ethical," Norris says.
Think of it as a "slow bourbon" movement.
Tours – offered Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays – are educational, so expect to learn a lot about bourbon and distilling — Photo courtesy of Laws Whiskey House
To start, not an ounce of spirit is sourced elsewhere, as is the case with some so-called craft distillers. While sourcing spirit vastly shortens the time it takes to create whiskey, it also compromises the authenticity of the product. It's a shortcut that doesn't fit with Laws' mission or the passion of its workers.
Three of the grains come from family-owned farms in Colorado, adding to the bourbon's local identity. While Laws' distribution is not currently large enough to enable Norris to source the corn from Colorado, that's the goal. Until then, the corn comes from Wisconsin.
After fermenting and distilling, Laws' bourbon is aged for approximately three years in charred American white-oak barrels.
The four grains used in Laws' whiskey are wheat, barley, rye and corn — Photo courtesy of Laws Whiskey House
While regulations dictate that any whiskey called bourbon must be at least 51 percent corn, four-grain bourbon adds wheat, barley and rye to the mix. The complication is that each grain requires its own specific temperature during cooking to bring out its sugars and flavors, which extends the cooking time for a batch.
It also takes a superior distiller to tame the rye so it doesn't overpower the whiskey's flavor profile. Norris is the right man for that job. He was previously head distiller and an original partner at Stranahan's Colorado Distillery, the facility that first proved Colorado could stand up to Kentucky and Tennessee as a source for fine American whiskey.
Colorado now boasts several distilleries, but Laws Whiskey House is the only one making four-grain bourbon. In fact, it's one of only two in the country.
Laws' bourbon is distilled in a Vendome copper four-plate pot-column still custom made for the company in Kentucky (where they know a little bit about stills) — Photo courtesy of Laws Whiskey House
The best way to learn about Laws Whiskey House is to take one of the educational tours. Norris and company want visitors to understand bourbon and all aspects of the production process at the distillery, so tours include a walk through the production floor. Each tour concludes with a guided tasting of Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon.
There's a $10 charge for the tour, but it goes toward the purchase price for anyone who decides to buy a bottle. It's hard to imagine any bourbon-lover not buying a bottle, making the $10 discount a nice thank you from Laws for taking the time to visit.
Currently, tours are offered Thursday through Saturday. But Norris says the distillery will increase the touring schedule with the business.
"We have plans to expand the guest's experience as we grow," he says.
Whatever that means for visitors in the future, no doubt it will be curated much as the bourbon itself is, with integrity and quality as the focus.
Visit Laws Whiskey House's website to sign up for a tour or learn more.
The hard-working whiskey makers at Laws, left to right: Sam Poirier, Stephen Julander, Jason Mann, James Kunz, Alex Alexander and head distillerJake Norris. — Photo courtesy of Christine Loomis