Colorado whiskey is gettin’ good

Boulder Spirits catches the attention of bourbon aficionado Fred Minnick


Bourbon aficionado Fred Minnick recently placed Boulder Spirits’ 5-Year Straight Bourbon as the number 10-ranked whiskey released in the U.S. in 2022.

“The biggest surprise for me this year is how good Colorado whiskey is getting,” Minnick said in a YouTube video discussing his top 100 bourbons of last year, noting that Distillery 291 (Colorado Springs) and Leopold Brothers (Denver) also cracked his top 100, while Breckenridge Distillery got an honorable mention. 

Minnick, who got into bourbon tasting while readjusting to civilian life after serving as a photojournalist in Iraq, blind tasted more than 800 whiskeys in 2022 to arrive at his top 100. Each whiskey was assessed by color, nose, palate, finish, and uniqueness of a product in its category.

Boulder Spirits’ 5-Year Straight Bourbon was labeled C6 in Minnick’s blind tasting. 

“C6 was one that was so spicy, I have to go…” Minnick says while opening his mouth and sticking out his tongue in a video documenting his tasting process. “[I have to] let my tongue air out. When you have one of those in a flight that kind of grabs a hold of your tongue, you want the palate to breathe and rest a little bit … before you go on to the next one. A simple wash of water isn’t going to be enough for what C6 was. C6 really kind of curls up underneath the tongue and into the sides of my cheeks. It’s very powerful. In a blind tasting, C6 is something that has a chance.”

We checked in with Minnick via email to ask him what makes Boulder Spirits’ bourbon so special. 

How long have you been compiling your Top 100 whiskeys? 

I have been putting together lists and naming a whiskey of the year since 2010. But I started the Top 100 three years ago, because I found it incredibly difficult to leave something out that was too good to be left out of my annual awards. 

How do you choose which whiskeys you’ll be assessing for your Top 100? 

It’s a combination of past tastings and if the spirit truly represents its category, even exceeding the norm.

In addition to aroma, taste and finish, you ask yourself, “Does this product add something important to the American whiskey scene?” Broadly, what does that mean? And more specifically, what does Boulder Spirits’ Colorado 5-Year Straight Bourbon add to the American whiskey scene? 

This is the part where I look for true innovation and things that are exceptional but not easy. What I mean by this is, flavored whiskey, while it makes a ton of money, is horrible for the category of American whiskey, because they add flavor packs to whiskey and that’s neither traditional nor follows the art of whiskey. Boulder Spirits reflects the exciting growth and trend of small distillers who toiled when they had no customers or critics interested in them. They put in the time, waited, got better and one day their whiskey is on the biggest stage competing. 

Explain the five parameters you use to judge whiskey: color, nose, palate, finish, and uniqueness of a product in its category.

For color, it’s a representation of the whiskey’s time in the barrel. Every day it’s in there, it’s extracting all the color. So, if it’s light, I know it’s likely young and taste accordingly. The nose helps me understand how the whiskey was cut, if there are flaws, and an idea of how it will taste. On the palate, or the taste, I sort of close my eyes and try to focus on how it feels on my tongue, seeing what flavors pop and how many points on the palate it’s striking.

Can you explain the color, nose, palate, finish and uniqueness of Boulder Spirit’s Straight Bourbon 5 Year? 

Well, I tasted this up against 99 others in this [tasting] and it just stood out. The more I went to it, the more I loved it. I think that bourbon in particular was made for the bourbon geek world — people who want to feel the whiskey all over the tongue, drip down the jawline and last long after it’s swallowed. 

What are some trends folks can expect to see in American whiskey? You’ve mentioned in your writings that blended whiskeys are no longer the pariahs of the whiskey world — is that a trend we’ll see more of? 

I do think blends of straights are more the future, because bottlers don’t have any other choice but to grab barrels from various distillers to blend. In a perfect world, we’d see more Boulder Spirits-type distilleries and the world can see these craft distillers are every bit as good as the Buffalo Traces of the world.