The Reserve by Old Elk Distillery Review

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The Reserve By Old Elk Distillery
Old Town Fort Collins
253 Linden Street, Fort Collins, CO 80524
Tour – Review

We hope you enjoy our The Reserve by Old Elk Distillery Review! Also, check out our The Reserve By Old Elk Video!

Fort Collins, A Brewer’s Haven

A quick Google search of distilleries in Fort Collins, reveals a surprising number. This northern Colorado college town has long been a brewer’s haven ever since a change in state law in the late 1980’s allowed not just for the production of beer, but also for its sale, in a single facility. While the same law applied to distilleries, their growth was substantially slower. Today, however, Larimer County finds itself home to seven distilleries

Old Town Fort Collings Sign
Old Elk Distillery Is Born

Old Elk Distillery joined the distilling scene in 2013. The business was founded by Curt and Nancy Richardson, most notable for their innovation of Otterbox. The Richardson’s followed their entrepreneurial spirit into the spirits industry. Today Old Elk Distillery produces 4 standard whiskeys along with a Master’s Blend Series. And like many new distilleries, Old Elk distills its own line of vodka and gin along with a line of flavored whiskeys and a bourbon cream.

Where Is The Old Elk Distillery?

Interestingly however, what a Google map search does not yield is the location of the Old Elk Distillery in Fort Collins. Instead, whiskey seekers will find The Reserve by Old Elk Distillery located in Old Town Fort Collins. According to its website,, The Reserve is a “boutique cocktail bar featuring Old Elk Distillery’s products.”  Don’t be misled by the “boutique” description. The Reserve is a comfortable place to spend time; and like our favorite spot back home, it’s rustic yet refined.

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Our Tasting

Since a distillery tour was not in the cards, we happily accepted a tasting arranged by Old Elk’s Chris Danforth.  It turns out we were in for quite the treat as our most gracious host was Becca Nelson (formerly Padilla), The Reserve’s general manager. She was the perfect person to school us on everything Old Elk as her whiskey and cocktail knowledge were as impeccable as her excellent service skills.

Our tasting at The Reserve began with Old Elk’s 4 standard whiskeys: Old Elk Straight Blended Bourbon Whiskey, Old Elk Straight Wheat Whiskey, Old Elk Wheated Bourbon, and Old Elk Straight Rye Whiskey. Next was the Master’s Blend Series which included the Old Elk Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey, the Old Elk Double Wheat Whiskey, and the Old Elk Infinity Blend. Also included was The Reserve’s single barrel pick of the Old Elk Sour Mash. 

A Common Denominator

Each of these carefully crafted whiskeys have one very important common denominator, whiskey guru extraordinaire, Greg Metze. At the beginning, Richardson had purchased several small stills, but quickly realized these where not going to produce enough whiskey. For Richardson it wasn’t build it and they will come. It was just the opposite. By contract distilling, Old Elk could build volume quicker and with greater efficiency while distillery plans could be properly addressed.

Enter Greg Metze

Enter Greg Metze. While Richardson contracted with Woody Creek Distillers in Basalt Colorado as well as a New York distillery, Midwest Grain Products in Lawrenceburg, IN, aka, MGP, took on the majority of the work. Metze was Master Distiller of MGP at the time and was tasked by Richardson to create a bourbon that was “smooth and easy.”  For Metze this meant the mashbill would require an atypical amount of malted barley. Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon Whiskey boasts a whopping 34% malted barley with just enough corn, 51% to keep it a bourbon, and just enough rye, 15% to give it some spice.  

While Metze continued his employment at MGP, he also continued overseeing production of Old Elk’s various whiskeys including creative control over their mashbills. In 2016 Metze changed gears and retired from MGP after a staggering 38 years. Without missing a beat, Metze joined Old Elk Distillery full-time. Perfect timing since the following year Old Elk would release their first product, Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a blend of straight bourbons from different states.

Old Elk Does Things A Bit Differently

Thirty-eight years in an industry gives a person some serious know-how. On Old Elk’s blog, Metze shares a few of their practices that make Old Elk’s processes a bit different. It’s located under  “Real Talk with Greg Metze.”  Metze discusses two in particular. First, Old Elk uses chilled fermentation. The mash is taken down to 65 degrees before the yeast is innoculated into the mash. Then a slow rise in temperature up to 90 degrees is done. According to Metze this process is “very good for congener profiles”.

The second practice happens once the barrels have matured. Metze and the Old Elk team employ a slow cut proofing method. Metze explains that adding water in one or two steps creates heat. Too much heat can drive away some of the delicate and desirable congeners that the maturation process works so hard to develop. Old Elk avoids this issue by adding water in small steps over 2 to 2 1/2 weeks thus helping to maintain the distillate’s integrity.

The Reserve By Old Elk Distillery Has Great Food, Too!

The Reserve serves as the perfect showcase for the team’s talents. However, the whiskeys are not to be outdone by the staff’s amazing culinary capabilities. The menu ranges from a build your own charcuterie board and plenty of delicious table-sharing appetizers, to mouth-watering elk burgers and smoked salmon tacos, to name just a few. The menu is modest in size, but well executed. The fare is a welcome addition to supplement the terrific array of cocktails or a sampling of Old Elk whiskeys.

For a town that was dry long before prohibition (1896), courtesy of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and remained so long after its appeal (1933), the powers that be finally lifted the ban in 1969. Old Elk Distillery gives a nod to this triumph with its line of vodka and gin, aptly named Dry Town. Fifty-three years later, the dry in dry town has clearly dried up and The Reserve By Old Elk Distillery is a great spot to wet your whiskey whistle.

We hope you have enjoyed our The Reserve By Old Elk Distillery review and tour! Now, check out our short The Reserve By Old Elk Video and our Old Elk Wheated Bourbon Review and our Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon Review!

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