Sep 27, 2013
Peach Street Distillers
Employees: 8 full time, up to 25 seasonally
Peach Street in Palisade is cooking up a spirits revival with locally sourced produce and a millennial demo
When you consider Peach Street Distillers and everything it stands for you have to, well, get into the spirit of the thing. “I have the best job in the world,” enthuses Chris “Moose” Koons, the company’s sales manager, voice, and leading passionista for the ideals of local, community, small batches, and high-quality vodka, gin, bourbon, brandy, eau de vie, and grappa – 18 kinds of spirits in all. “Our whole MO (modus operandi) is local – grain to glass. We started on a shoestring – heck, we’re still on a shoestring – but it caught on and people dug it.”
Koons points out that when it comes to the distillers they’re up against when selling their products it has to be good because most of those other guys make more bottles in a day than Peach Street makes all year. Besides, he adds, “I’m usually presenting alongside of three or four beautiful female sales reps, so with a name like Moose I better have the best stuff.”
Almost all of the ingredients that go into Peach Street spirits – fruit and grains – are sourced locally, and Koons says they are working on local sources for barley to “go totally local soon.” One of the biggest issues for the operation over the nearly 10 years in existence, he adds, has been to get production big enough to get the attention of the local farmers what with all of the craft beer brewing, some of them sizeable, going on in Colorado. Still, though, to make the Peach Street brandies – products like the Eau de Vie Peach and Plum, Pear Brandy and Peach Brandy – the company goes through 95,000 pounds of peaches and 50,000 pounds of pears each year – all from farms in the Palisade area.
And those numbers may soon rise. Currently, Peach Street Distillers is making about 12,000 to 15,000 cases of spirits a year, a case being a 6-pack of 750 ml bottles. Koons says, however, that the operation is in the process of obtaining a second Christian Carl still that could boost production up to something like 30,000 cases. “Capacity, though, really depends on local agriculture,” he notes. “We take all the fruit the farmers can’t use (for other purposes), so if we’re able to get the product we could even triple our production.”
That production is in the capable hands of the company owner and founder, Rory Donovan, who handles the business end of the operation and is described on the company website as “Head Custodian,” and Davy Lindig, the “Head Brewer Distiller Cook Guy;” in other words, he makes the stuff. (Koons says the two are also involved in SKA Brewing, a craft beer maker in Durango.) With the planned expansion, Koons notes, Lindig may bring on one or two more distillers to help handle the load. The good news is that currently the firm makes about two batches of its Goat Artisan Vodka a month and could go to three, and that its Colorado Straight Bourbon, now taking three runs in the still to fill a 53-gallon barrel, could be done in one run.
The expansion is due, in part, on the growing demand for Peach Street products. Colorado is the most important market, of course, since it has the direct tie to the company ideal of “local,” but Koons says that California, New York and Chicago are emerging big markets, and that the firm is moving into Boston and New England, as well. “We go where we have relative and friends,” he says, “people who could be our advocates when we’re not around.”
Of course, any expansion is dependent upon Peach Street maintaining its quality and not getting too big. “We have a sustainable business and we like what we have,” he says. “The corporate beast is out there.”
And there’s also the idea of educating the Colorado and American palates in the appreciation of fine spirits, particularly for some of the more exotic varieties.
“Our Grappa and brandies are like soccer,” Koons observes. “They’re really cool everywhere else in the world except in the United States – but tastes are changing.”
Challenges: “Our biggest challenge is to control our processes and quality – it’s more important than growth,” says Koons.
Opportunities: “I’m finding more people in the 24 to 35 age group asking about bourbon and spirits,” Koons notes. “Ten years ago it was all 35-plus. In the last seven years the demographics (for spirits) have changed.”
Needs: “To keep up with demand and yet stay true to our ideals for quality and local,” Koons says. “I don’t think we’ll ever keep up with demand.”