Bourbon Reviews, Distillery News and Information
Leopold Bros Distillery
5285 Joliet Street
Denver, CO 80239
Please enjoy our Leopold Bros Distillery Tour Review!
Leopold Bros Story Began Long Ago
The current iteration of the Leopold Bros. Distillery opened in Denver, CO, in 2014. However, the Leopold Bros. story started long before then. Todd and Scott Leopold are brothers. Brothers who have created one of the most unique distilleries and distillery experiences that we have seen.
Interestingly, neither Todd nor Scott started off in the distilling industry. In fact, Todd had earned an undergraduate degree in Literature, whereas Scott had earned his degrees in Economics and Industrial Engineering. Scott would then go on to receive a Masters degree in Environmental Engineering while Todd entered into the world of alcoholic beverage production. He first trained at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, and later on in Germany.
First A Brewery, Then A Distillery
The brothers initial endeavor was a brewery in Ann Arbor Michigan. To accommodate the growing “cocktail culture” trend, they eventually began to make their own spirits for the brewery’s bar. Ultimately, the brothers decided to shift their focus strictly to distilling, and so the Leopold Bros. Distillery was born.
The Brothers Head Back To Colorado
Scott and Todd returned to their home state of Colorado to open their namesake distillery. They combined all of their respective skills to create a distillery with many extraordinary features. For example, they have a dunnage style barrel warehouse, more stills than I have ever seen in one place, including one of the only operating three chamber stills in existence, and their own malting floor and kiln. And to top it all off, the distillery is housed in a zero waste facility.
Let’s Take A Tour Of The Distillery
A tour of Leopold Bros Distillery is unique as well. While waiting for our tour to begin, we enjoyed a cocktail in the gift shop/cocktail bar. However, it wasn’t long before we were greeted by our tour guide, Jeremy. Surprisingly, he was carrying a tray of glasses. Are we starting out with samples right away, we wondered? We would soon get our answer. As it turns out, for each stop we would make, Jeremy would pour us different spirit to sample. To add to the mood, at each stop Jeremy also donned a different hat befitting of each topic of discussion.
Once we had received our glasses, we entered the distillery proper. We found ourselves in a single expansive room containing the stills, fermenters and bottling line. Jeremy explained the history of the brothers and the distillery as we sipped on our first spirit, vodka. Leopold Bros Silver Tree Vodka is a bit different from most vodkas (in a good way), as it is made from potato flakes, malted barley and summer wheat using a 52 plate three part column still.
To The Malting Floor We Go
However, we did not discuss the stills at this time. Rather, our first stop was the malting floor. Floor malting at Leopold Bros Distillery started in 2020, and is one of their cooler practices that sets them apart from other distilleries. In fact, Leopold Bros is one of the few distilleries in the United States to do their own malting, floor or otherwise.
Unfortunately for us, no malting was underway during our visit. However, we did get to see the floor. The room that houses the malting floor is quite large. Large rooms seem to be a trend here. Jeremy was not sure of the exact amount, but thought the floor could produce around 50,000 pounds of malted barley per run. That’s a lot of malted barley! Their production capacity exceeds their own needs, so malting is not a 24/7 operation. Additionally, their large production capacity allows them to sell their malt to other brewers and distillers.
All Natural, Locally Grown Ingredients
Taking a step back, all of the ingredients used at Leopold Bros Distillery are natural, and where possible, from Colorado family farms and orchards. For example, their barley is grown in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, and their rye is grown 25 miles north of the distillery.
Back to the Distillery
Next, it was back into the distillery. Since we really didn’t discuss the details of the cooking process, we’ll get right to fermentation. Fermentation takes place in open wooden fermenters. During the spring and summer, the windows are kept open to allow local flora into the distillery. Those flora include wild yeasts and bacteria. These microbials will land in the fermentation tanks and work in concert with the pitched yeast. The wild yeasts and bacteria will also take up residence within the nooks and crannies of the wooden fermenters, making them available even when the windows are closed. In addition, Leopold Bros Distillery uses a relatively cool fermentation temperature to minimize the production of fusel alcohols, which may impart undesirable flavors. Ultimately, it is all of these factors which will contribute to their “house flavor”. Interestingly, Todd Leopold describes this flavor as orange marmalade.
That’s A Lot Of Stills!
After fermentation, the next step is distillation. Many distilleries have a couple of stills, perhaps even three, plus or minus an experimental still. However, Leopold Bros. Distillery has 8 production stills! I think I even saw a few smaller ones around, too! That’s a lot of stills!
The Vodka Still
Our first stop was the vodka still. This is the only still that is in its own enclosure, which is due to fire department restrictions. The vodka still is a 52 plate column still, which is divided into 3 pieces so that it can fit into the building. This still produces vodka, of course, and also the spirits used in the gin and liqueurs.
The Whiskey Stills
After the vodka still, we learned about the four pot stills. All of the pot stills (and the vodka still) were fabricated by Vendome Copper & Brass Works, Inc. Three of these stills are copper and one is stainless steel, lined with copper. These stills are used for producing Leopold Bros whiskeys.
The Three Chamber Still
Then, we moved on to the still that makes Leopold Bros Distillery truly unique: the Three Chamber Still. Three Chamber Stills, or Chamber Stills as they are also known, were commonly used prior to prohibition to produce rye whiskey. These stills produce a uniquely flavorful and full bodied whiskey, which is very different from the whiskey produced by a column still. Unfortunately, following Prohibition, these stills became all but extinct. Leopold Bros. had this one fabricated for them by Vendome, and it is one of only a couple in operation today. I have devoted a whole post to the Three Chamber Still where you can read about this interesting still in much greater detail.
The Eau De Vie Stills from Christian CARL
Finally, it was on to the two Eau de Vie Stills from Christian CARL, a European still manufacturer. Leopold Bros Distillery uses these as finishing stills. Accordingly, the Orange and Maraschino Cherry liqueurs and their gins are distilled on these stills. Like everything else at Leopold Bros, their gin is not made the “easy way”. They make it using a method called fractional distillation. Thus, they do a separate distillation for each botanical, and then blend them all together, creating the perfect balance of flavors.
After seeing the wide array of stills, we made a brief stop at the bottling line.
The Barrel House
Following the bottling line, it was time to head to the barrel house. Once again, Leopold Bros Distillery does things just a little differently from most U.S. distilleries. Since the Denver climate is dry with large temperature swings, significant losses due to evaporation can occur during barrel aging. To help combat that, Leopold Bros uses dunnage style warehouses. Conversely, in Kentucky, traditional rickhouses are the norm. Rickhouses tend to be very large buildings, often multiple stories high. Inside, barrels are stacked on ricks, often many levels high on each floor. The floors of these rickhouses tend to be wood, or possibly concrete. In a single story dunnage style barrel house, the floors are unfinished, exposed dirt. Consequently, there is higher humidity in a dunnage style warehouse, and less temperature fluctuation. Therefore, evaporative losses are decreased.
But That’s Not All
Ultimately, our tour was at its end. But that’s not all! We were then off to the gift shop / cocktail bar where we were welcome to sample all of the Leopold Bros spirits. I took this opportunity to try the current release of their Three Chamber Rye (for a nominal cost), as well as some of their other spirits which were not offered on the tour.
What A Great Tour!
We certainly enjoyed our time at Leopold Bros Distillery! As someone who has visited A LOT of distilleries, I can honestly say that I have never been on a tour like this before. Jeremy led us on what would more appropriately be called an “experience” rather than a tour. That is not at all to say that we didn’t tour the facility and learn all about Leopold Bros Distillery. We absolutely did! But Jeremy made learning an incredibly fun experience, and really, this was a tour like no other. If you are ever in the Denver area, there is no question that a visit to Leopold Bros Distillery should be on your list. Cheers!
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