Crested Butte’s Montanya Distillers moved to make mountain rum
Owning and operating a distillery may appear to be all glamour, with cocktail parties, traveling the world pouring drinks and having a constant buzz from the attention and the alcohol, but the reality is that small craft distilleries run much like any other small business — with lots of hard work and dedication.
“I do think that like any small business, a lot of people have a deluded concept of how fabulous it is, that it’s just a lot of excitement,” said Karen Hoskin, co-owner, president and rumrunner for Montanya Distillers in Crested Butte. “Like any small business, it’s seven days a week and often 12 hours a day and it becomes your life and your world in a whole different way than punching the clock.”
Hoskin has owned her own businesses for about 16 years, but she said the fun part of owning Montanya is the festival atmosphere that surrounds the world of spirits.
“It’s very hard to take yourself too seriously when you’re owning and running a distillery,” she said. “No one needs to have rum, so it’s easy to take a hands-off approach. It’s not a life or death kind of business, and your average activities are going to fun cocktail parties and connecting with other small-business owners, including bars, restaurants and liquor stores.”
Rum makes people happy, Hoskin said, which keeps the work lighthearted.
“I can’t say that of every alcoholic beverage out in the world,” she said. “It has a really interesting interaction with the human biology. I run a bar in Crested Butte that’s very busy. … You get to see it and compare it to other bar situations, and we only serve the rum that we make, and people are really happy and it creates this fun environment.”
Focus on rum
Montanya started off making mountain rum in Silverton about five years ago before moving to Crested Butte.
“We’ve always been a rum-focused distillery, that’s really our obsession,” Hoskin said. “We don’t have plans to bring any other types of spirits online. Both my husband and I are rum fanatics; he had another business, so it was my rum fanaticism that was driving Montanya.”
The distillery has been growing at a rate of about 50 percent per year, which meant it reached a point where it needed bigger facilities. Hoskin said they took a hard look at Silverton and realized it wasn’t a big enough area to support the expansion, so the distillery moved to Crested Butte in May 2011.
“The company has continued to grow,” she said. “We’ve doubled our size, and now we’re in 34 states around the country and growing every year. We stay focused on making really good rum. We want to be known as the American rum; ideally, someday we might get there.”
Montanya’s rum is distilled through an all-natural process with four natural ingredients — sugar cane, water, yeast and a touch of caramelized Rocky Mountain honey. For hundreds of bottles of rum, the amount of honey used is very, very small.
“It fits in the palm of my hand, but it brings out the oak and the whiskey that was in the barrel previously,” Hoskin said. “It’s also what makes the flavor profile of our rum very unique.”
The Huffington Post has listed Montanya in its Top 5 Favorite Mountain Town Distilleries and Breweries in 2012, and it was named in the Top 5 Best Rums in North America at the Golden Rum Barrel Awards in the U.K. in 2010. It also received a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2010.
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The first in-person local festival of the year has arrived with Dandelion Day making its return to Sopris Park in Carbondale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday.