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Tasting Rum at High Altitude


montanya-distillery_6Karen Hoskin pours a rum cocktail. Photo by Dave CoxI duck out of a summer thunderstorm’s icy rain and into the Montanya Distillers tasting room in Silverton, Colorado, a mining-come-tourist town that’s over a century old.


The tasting room is small, and the odors of artisan cocktail ingredients—lemons, blueberries, and almonds—greet us as we pull the door shut. We sit at a round table, joining a room containing a mixture of long-time locals and out-of-towners like us.


Montanya Distillers makes two varieties of rum: the clear Platino and the saffron-colored Oro. We visit the tasting room every week or so, and have learned from its bartenders the intricacies of making both rum (use mountain water and let altitude do the aging) and ornate cocktails out here in the mountains (travel to Durango each week for fresh ingredients; don’t cut, slice, or dice until a drink is ordered).


Though Montanya’s owners, Karen and Brice Hoskin, create spirits most folks associate with the tropics, they’ve created a space that lives and breathes the mountain life. I run my fingers over a knot in our table and wonder if the tree that made it came from the San Juan Mountains. On a nicer day, we could sit in the tasting room’s outdoor garden and in Kendall Mountain’s literal shadow.


With the tempest upon us, we huddle inside and order cocktails. I choose the Maharaja because it promises cardamom and lime. It also pledges a lot of alcohol, three ounces of Oro. When I take my first sip, the back of my throat warms and opens. The Maharaja goes down smoothly—dangerously so—and before long all that’s left is clinking ice cubes.


We eavesdrop on the people around us, too. The Telluride tourists at the next table are discussing the terror of Jeep-ing over mountain passes. A man with a cowboy hat and slick belt buckle sitting alone at the bar texts the words “I love you” into his Blackberry.


It’s early, so we order again, this time a flight of sippers containing some Platino and Oro for each of us. A white flash fills the windows, followed by thunder that makes one woman gasp and rattles drinks against tabletops. We lift the small glasses in cheers, dedicating our drinks to not dying in lightning storms, good rum, and summer in the San Juans.  —Meghan M. Hicks


For more on Montanya Distillers, pick up a copy of the Early Winter issue of Mountain magazine. The Silverton tasting room will reopen in January 2012; for now, sample Montanya’s rum cocktails at their new location in Crested Butte. Click on the image below to launch a photo gallery of outtakes from the Mountain shoot. Photos by Dave Cox


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