Ruminating on Rum: Reflections on a Decade of Montanya Distillers

Born out of Silverton, Colorado, the craft product has evolved and grown

Ten years ago this month in the tiny Colorado town of Silverton, in an 800-square-foot stone building that played host to a brothel 100 year prior, Karen and Brice Hoskin hatched an idea to start a craft rum distillery called Montanya Distillers.

Their concept fit no existing paradigm.

There were few craft distilleries in existence in the U.S., and only one or two were specializing in rum. The staff had to climb over aging barrels to reach their bottling line because space was so tight. Their warehouse was a box truck that never liked to start, parked on the street with a padlock protecting their stock. The Hoskins called the truck The Bank Account because between the aging barrels, the bottled rum and the truck, you could see all of their life savings right in front of you.

In their first year of operation, Karen Hoskin would load up her Toyota Tacoma with as many cases of rum as she could fit and still safely drive. She would leave the distillery and wouldn't return home until she sold every case.

The fermentation room had dirt floors and required the team and visitors to duck in order to walk under the low hanging ceiling. Their copper Alembic still was named Bella and the bottle filler was named Helga, referred to in conversation as though they were core members of the team. Three people did everything; two were women, which was exceedingly rare in the distilling industry a decade ago.

The crew would hand-apply every label to every bottle, often in the middle of the night because the Hoskins still had their day jobs and a couple of small kids at home. On one inauspicious occasion, a leaking barrel sent sum onto the heads of patrons sitting in the tasting room bar below. They tipped their mouths skyward and the crisis was averted, as though it had been planned all along.

The cocktail bar inside the distillery served only rum cocktails. Nonetheless, it was shoulder-to-shoulder crammer with skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer during every open hour. Customers would help the Hoskins carry deliveries of sugar cane and through them through a hole in the floor. 

Things evolved a bit over time.

Today, Montanya Distillers lives in Crested Butte with 23 employees – about half women – and 5,200-square-feet worth of facilities. The company sends rum all over the world and all over the U.S. They have trained four female distillers from the ground up and imported three stills from the family makers in Portugal. They have rebranded, redesigned and reinvented themselves a number of times, becoming one of the nation's most beloved, award-winning and sustainable craft distiller. 

Now, it's time to party. 

Starting March 31, Montanya Distillers launched a celebration of their 10th anniversary rum with a series of events that will last throughout the rest of the year. 

April 7, Montanya will release the first bottles of their 10th anniversary celebration rum, Montanya Aniversaria, at the distillery's tasting room. The single-barrel rum is aged for four years in three different Colorado barrels – AD Law Whisky House, Sutcliffe Vineyards and Peach Street Distillers. The selected barrels are also a tribute to the team's early Colorado inspirations. There will only be 300 bottles available in the limited release. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to The Women's Distillery Guild, a nonprofit supporting gender diversity in craft distilling, and the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, a research facility accelerating discoveries about the ecosystems that replenish the world's air, water and food supplies.

Categories: Made in Colorado