Peach Street Distillers’ modest beginnings and present success in Palisade

Rory Donovan of Peach Street Distillers in Palisade holds the popular Bloody Mary the company makes.



Patrons toast with a variety of Peach Street drinks.



Peach Street Distillery’s Bloody Mary.



Peach Street Goat Artisan Vodka recently bottled.



Rory Donovan in the rick house where various spirits are aging in oak barrels.



QUICKREAD

SMALL BATCH SPIRITS at Peach Street Distillers:

■ Colorado Straight Bourbon: Aged a minimum of two years in a brand new American oak barrel heavily toasted on the inside for a full-bodied, aromatic flavor.

■ Oak-aged Peach Brandy: More than 27 pounds of Palisade peaches go into each and every bottle.

■ Oak-aged Pear Brandy: Only pears grown within a 10-mile radius are used.

■ Dagave Premium, Silver and Gold: Don’t shoot it, sip it.

■ Grappa: Made from pomace straight from the award-winning DeBeque Canyon Winery.

■ Goat Artisan Vodka: Olathe sweet corn gives it a special flavor.

■ Jackelope and Jenny Pear Gin: Fresh citrus peels are ground in house.

■ Jack and Jenny Eau de Vie: French for “Water of Life,” distilled and carefully fermented using tree-ripened Palisade fruit.



The year was 2006.

Rory Donovan and Davy Lindig warmed their hands over a hobo fire burning in a rusty barrel. They were taking a short break from the seemingly endless demands of their craft.

 

The duo’s handmade still, constructed from an old turkey fryer attached to a keg, bubbled and dripped a few feet away.

When he wasn’t moving tons of local fruit and grain into a store room, preparing mash for fermentation or laying down thousands of miles on sales trips around Colorado in his 1999 Dodge pickup, Donovan slept on the cold, hard tiles of the distillery’s small tasting room.

What probably looked to some like an illegal moonshine operation back then was actually the start of an entirely legal, seven-year entrepreneurial adventure that saw Donovan and his partners grow a tiny, craft distillery into an international distributor of bourbon and other spirits.

In June, Donovan’s Peach Street Distillers shipped 100 cases of its signature Colorado Straight Bourbon to Sweden, a milestone for the company.

It took a few years to take off, but starting in 2008, when word finally got out about the crafters’ oak-aged peach and pear brandies, demand quickly grew.

These days, signs of success are everywhere at the distillery’s Palisade headquarters.

Once, two buildings were enough to house the operation. Now, four buildings are needed.

Once, Donovan and Lindig were the only people employed at the distillery. Now, 20 employees work at the business, including college-educated chemists like Joseph Laviolette, who isn’t breaking bad, exactly, but follows a non-traditional science career path. “I’ve learned a ton,” Laviolette said. “These guys know so much they go by feel and by smell” to determine when a batch is ready for market.

Donovan, who dropped out of art school and spent his twenties in Durango guiding fishing tours and skiing, downplays the magnitude of his accomplishments, some achieved only after a lengthy period of trial and error.

“I’m never off the clock,” Donovan said, explaining his normal work day often starts at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 2:30 a.m. or later.

The distiller’s practice of using fruit grown within a 10-mile radius means Peach Street doesn’t pay the cost of refrigerated transportation and storage, a competitive advantage over other craft distillers.

In addition to hard work, Palisade peaches and Olathe sweet corn, the distillery’s success is tied to a few common sense rules, he said.

“Quality is paramount. That’s number one. Do stuff right. Don’t screw people over. Own your debts and always remember how lucky you are to be in Palisade,” he said.

He gives all credit to his crew, especially Lindig.

“I wish I could say it’s because we’re the masters of our craft, but the truth is we get the freshest fruit I’ve ever seen. It comes straight from the orchard.”

The American Distilling Institute showed its admiration for Donovan’s operation by naming Peach Street Distillers 2012 Distillery of the Year.


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