At exactly 5,280 feet above sea level, Denver is known as the Mile High City. Denver is a booming city full of arts and entertainment, sports teams, and a rapidly growing spirits industry. It’s here where you’ll find Mile High Spirits. Nestled in the heart of downtown, Mile High Spirits fully embraces the definition of an urban distillery, offering a unique experience that traditional Kentucky distilleries can’t come close to matching.
Located just a few blocks away from Coors Field, the first hint that this isn’t your typical distillery is when you approach the door labeled “The Distillery.” Imprinted is the slogan “This is the work door. Suit up and get in here, there’s whisky to be made! The party door is to the right.” And sure enough, just down to the right of it is another door welcoming you to Mile High Spirits. When you walk in you are greeted with a sight you normally don’t encounter at a distillery, a massive 5,000 square foot open music and bar venue. Nestled directly next to it is a 6,500 square foot outdoor extension to keep the party going.
Immediately you’re struck with the feeling that this place is all about fun, and in part, it is. You’ll soon notice the empty barrels hanging from the ceiling, and while the barrels look cool, they also act as functional acoustic dampening. Your eyes will also be drawn to a Mile High Spirits forklift loaded with a case of whiskey. It’s a prop, but it further adds to the fun and also reminds you that this is a working distillery after all.
Rounding out the experience is a massive group photo booth adorned with neon lights that state, “Drink Up” and of course. And of course i’d be remiss if I didn't mention the eclectic bar, which is stocked full of tapped barrels and colorful glass vessels containing the company's in-house distilled spirits. All of these things embrace the company ethos: “We take our spirits seriously, but not ourselves.”
Founded by Wyn Ferrell, Joe Von Felt, and Chase Campbell in 2011, and in their current location since 2014, Mile High Spirits focuses on the experience. With fun at the forefront, they showcase how they make their whiskey taste distinctly their own. That process is the brainchild of master distiller Tyler Joyce, where he works in the adjourning 9,000 square foot production facility to create the company's spirits.
Joyce comes from a traditional beer brewing background and has traveled the U.S. and the world honing his brewing skills. This has helped develop his approach distilling with a brewers mindset, one that allows for broad interpretation and the willingness to take chances on various grain combinations. As we discovered when we explored their Fireside Bourbon and Fireside Rye, the end result is a funky, yet refreshing whiskey that is intriguing to explore.
Walking through their distillery and talking to Joyce, you get the sense that this man lives and breathes distilling. Throughout my time spent with him he spoke about the various grain combinations he’s looking forward to trying, along with the ones he’s already laid down. He’s not focused on traditional bourbon or rye either, as was very clear when we sampled through barrels of the yet to be released, Scottish Single Malt and even their American Single Malt which is composed of 7% wheat and 93% malted barley. Both showed great promise and got me excited to see what other paths Joyce will experiment with in the future.
In addition to sampling barrels such as their Triple Rye, which is a combination of German rye, midwest rye, Colorado rye, and Beachwood smoked barley, I was able to sample through a slew of Fireside Single Barrel Bourbons. One in particular stood out so much from the other four barrels I tasted next to it, that it was chosen to be an upcoming release in our Breaking Bourbon Single Barrel Club. A 4 year old, 134 proof bourbon, it drinks lower than its stated proof and displays rich notes of rye spice, chocolate, and vanilla. It's funky in the best of ways.
Away from the tastings and exploring the distillery more, I kept coming back to how much Mile High Spirits embraced their motto, “We take our spirits seriously, but not ourselves.” All around are quirky features that drive home that point, so much so that virtually all of the equipment is given a name that is prominently displayed on it. This includes their gin still named Walter (they make clear spirits too) or their fermenters named Snap, Crackle, and Pop. It’s these little details which remind everyone hard work can be fun and rewarding, and it was refreshing to see.
Everything is done in-house at Mile High Spirits, from the grinding of the grains, to the distilling, barreling, aging, and ultimately, bottling. It’s an impressive operation that takes advantage of every single inch of the building that they have to work with. In addition to hard spirits, they also produce Punching Mule, which is a Moscow Mule in a can and one of the very first ready to drink cocktails when it was introduced to market several years ago.
In their music venue space, it’s interesting to see how organically Mile High Spirits introduces their guests to their spirit lineup. All of the drinks made behind the bar are made from products produced on site - meaning no beer or other outside spirits are served. It may seem logical, until you realize that this space doubles as a massive music venue with non-stop artists and DJ’s performing to packed crowds year round.
At the front is a stage that is able to expand outwards. Behind it is a window prominently displaying their still to all those who are watching the artist on stage. Surrounding the entire space are various chairs and tables, many of which were made by Ferrell himself. Just to the left of the bar is a door that leads to a massive outside patio to extend the fun year round. It’s easy to see why upwards of 2,000 people will cycle through on a Friday or Saturday night.
This is what makes Mile High Spirits so unique. It’s not the fact that they’re a craft distillery who focuses on producing quality unique whiskey while having fun, but also because they’ve managed to blend music and whiskey into one cohesive being. To some, Mile High Spirits will be their favorite bar and concert venue, while to others it will be the place that produces interesting spirits that come in that unique bottle with that long slim neck.
As cities constantly change and redefine themselves, Mile High Spirits is redefining what it means to be an urban distiller. They didn’t settle for just being a whiskey distillery located downtown, instead they are continuously thinking how they can enhance the guest experience and introduce people to their spirits all while having fun.
Our visit was provided at no cost by Mile High Spirits. We thank them for allowing us to visit and share our unimpeded thoughts about our time on site.