Moonshine makes for great stories.
“But it’s not so good on the palate,” Andrew Causey, a Centennial distiller of fine spirits and self-appointed “ethanologist,” said with a laugh.
Licensed to “make booze” in July 2009, Causey and partner Mitch Abate are the founders, owners and operators of Centennial’s Downslope Distillery. Located just off Arapahoe at Jordan Road, the 3,500-square-foot facility is home to the pair and their magnificent signature double-diamond copper still.
Far removed from the scruffy rum-runners of bygone days, both have a deep respect for the craft and its historical significance.
With degrees in geography and geology, Causey and Abate, respectively, are both self-taught distillers.
Causey, who’s been a home brewer for more than 20 years, admits with a grin he got his start in the business “quite early.” His first attempt at making home brew was while he was the third grade and involved apple juice, a stovetop and his mother’s pressure cooker.
“It didn’t turn out so well,” he said.
Abate, on the other hand, became fascinated with a story about a Colorado man who kept getting busted for bootlegging.
Causey said Abate became so fascinated with the story and the process of distilling that he started posing as a journalist to learn from master distillers in Kentucky and Tennessee.
“He’d take notes and record his conversation,” said Causey. “One most telling things he discovered was that when he asked if a small distillery or craft distillery could ever make it, they (master distillers) thought that was the funniest thing in the world.”
Part of what made it humorous stems from the way federal excise taxes on liquor and spirits had been assessed.
Causey said up until recently, tax laws for on spirits were geared toward large-scale producers and assessed on total production, payable in full before any sales could occur.
Federal regulatory changes in the last few years have now made craft distilling a possibility where it wasn’t before, he said.
Downslope’s first product was out in August 2009, just 30 days after they were licensed.
Downslope’s line has now grown to 10 distinct products, including New Mexico and Indonesian pepper infused vodkas, and wine-barrel aged rums featuring special spiced rum fondly referred to as the “anti-nautical guy spiced-rum.”
And whether you spell it whiskey or whisky, Downslope’s Double Diamond whiskey is very popular.
Are they experimental by nature?
But Causey points out that Downslope’s idea of making a craft product is “not to make Jack Daniel’s better than Jack Daniel’s.”
“It’s to simply go back and find something really cool that has, perhaps, passed out of favor for production reasons rather than flavor.”
For a sampling of Downslope’s wares, visit the tasting room, 6770 S. Dawson Circle, Suite 400 in Centennial. Tasting room hours are noon to 4 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.