Once upon a time there was a Doctor from Kansas. We’ll call him Jefe. Amoung other things, Jefe liked chemistry, Colorado, and Single Malt Whiskey. He tells the saga of meeting Kane, a Master Distiller, at the American Distilling Institute in California. They began dreaming, scheming and sciencing…which they continue doing to this very day, at 9600 feet.
At sporadic intervals a public invitation goes out to participate in a Bottling Party at the Distillery. In the usual order of operations up here, I know someone who knows somewhat about something and so, found myself skating across a parking lot, through the stiff evening air just outside of Breckenridge.
Upon entering the warmly lit shopfront, I was first absorbed by the scent. It permeates the senses and I took a moment to revel in it. Barley, Rye, and oak I suspect. It was decidedly welcoming and I couldn’t help but explore deeper into the building. A room of oak ageing barrels made me suspect I had stepped into the belly of a long ago ship. Tucking between the piled pallets of barrels I peeked outside, just to make sure it was still solid ground out there.
From my cubby, I watched people rushing back and forth, with headpieces, tripods, and cameras. “Imposters,” I suspected. They slammed bright lights over the cozy dimness and suddenly I remembered Anne had told me there would be a film crew present.
Some cocky little fellow had us sign 4 page Release Forms and then scuttled off to make out with his Macbook.
A moment later Kane breezed by, stopping to pour himself a shot. “I’ve been up since before sunrise,” he lamented. “It was all beautiful and majestic and made me feel all alive and crap…I prefer crawling out of bed at noon feeling like I got hit by a train.” He slammed his elixir and hustled off to appease another of the seemingly infinite number of TV people.
A group of us from the community gathered along an assembly line set up as Jefe and Kane broke down the process.
Bottles manufactured and printed in France, filled tastefully decorated boxes which were stored open-side-down on massive palates. The bottles are removed then meticulously rinsed with Bourbon, filled to the neck, corked, stickered just so, then adorned with a necklace of well deserved recognition. Finally they are packed back into their boxes and stacked onto palates for distribution.The camera crew got their shots and packed up. Jefe immediately mandated music. everyone relaxed into the process, Henry Ford would have been pleased. Conversation and banter flowed from all, as our bodies became entranced by the repetitive motion. Ku’uipo stood back and watched the process, jumping in where she saw it backing up. This resulted in our working side by side.
As we drafted the amber liquid from 6 nozzles into the bottles, we exchanged stories. From Hawaii to California, it took The Cosmos two tries to get Kane and Ku’uipo together. And they ended up here. I am constantly struck by the exceptional stories and gifts of people I encounter.
From time to time, Kane would pop up to inspect the product. Holding a bottle up to the light, he rocked the liquid, scrutinizing qualities which I cannot even guess at. The focus on his face left no doubt as to why these exceptional individuals are producing one of the world’s finest Spirits.
Halfway through they paused production and led us to tables spread with veggies, fruits, and olives. Homemade bacon cheese dip, goat cheese red sauce, and White Beans and Ham were the main course. All followed by Bread Pudding. I nearly put myself in a coma, but settled for loosening my belt.
Although the Masters of the Domain had been up far too long already, we pushed through a few more hours, incorporating dance moves into our motions. In the end we filled 4 palates. As we stood around congratulating ourselves, I witnessed what this whole ordeal had been about. Community. Or, as Jefe called it, “free labour.”
The Bottling Party is an opportunity to get to meet a few of the schemers and dreamers up here. To peek into their laboratory, and take part in the production at the world’s highest distillery. Besides, the basic human joy from such a gathering cannot help but infuse that Burbon with an extra dose of excellence.
So, next time you’re in the area, drop by and take a tour of the Breckenridge Distillery.