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Obscure grains at heart of Feisty’s pioneering spirits


Making Whiskey and distilled spirits involves a process measured in months and years. That’s why winning awards and seeing demand spread and grow is not something you would expect from someone who describes himself as an ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) distiller. But David Monahan, the distiller behind Feisty Spirits in Fort Collins, calls himself just that.M

“We’re not competing with the Kentucky bourbons head to head,” Monahan said about the frenetic and somewhat obscure direction he and his partner, Jamie Gulden, have taken Feisty. “For us, we take traditional things and give them a little twist.”

Those little twists involve parking distillate from obscure grains for relatively short (2-8 months) stints in various white oak barrels (usually the 10 gallon size) that might be raw or charred or the previous home of one of any number of earlier concoctions including wine, cognac, sherry or beer. In any case, Monahan always starts with locally sourced organic grains, but not always the varieties that you would expect as a foundation for a distilled spirit.

Yes, Feisty has a core lineup of single barrel whiskeys aged in charred, 30-gallon American oak barrels — Blue Corn Bourbon, Better Days Bourbon, Rye and Maple Cinnamon — that line the walls of it’s warehouse space at 1709 E. Lincoln Ave. But Monahan’s babies are the smaller batches sitting in the 10 gallon barrels that feed his short attention span artistry.

Those smaller batches — both aged and unaged elementals — are where he is producing award-winning whiskey made with quinoa, oats, millet (birdseed), triticale, amaranth and Kamut. And in addition to traditional yellow corn and malted barley, Feisty also produces bourbons with blue and red corn and highly aromatic apple, pear and peach brandies.“The small batches and barrels let us play around more and try things,” Monahan said, adding that the smaller barrels take less time to work their magic on the spirits inside. “I have an intimacy with my barrels and know what each one does.” The small batch spirits are only available in the nicely appointed tasting room.

And while the smaller batches produce only about two or three dozen bottles, the “playing around” has resulted in Feisty winning more than half a dozen medals in national and international competitions over the brief three years they have been around, including a gold medal in the 2013 Denver International Spirits Competition for their unaged KAMUT Whiskey.

Given the neighborhood — Feisty is just down the street from both Fort Collins Brewing and Funkwerks — it’s no wonder that experimentation is the rule, not the exception. That’s where such varieties as the 2nd Chance Malt Whiskey and Hops Schnapps came from. The latter from an off batch of Hipster IPA from Black Bottle Brewing that was pumped into their 60 gallon copper still named Aphrodite; the former from some leftover malt flour from Fort Collins Brewery. And let’s not even get started on the batch of distilled porter that is aging in one of those small oak barrels as you read this. The aroma from the roasted barley promises to lend a rich, coffee-esque character to this latest product of Monahan’s ADHD spirit.
Despite all the experimentation, the growing popularity of Feisty’s core offerings keeps the upstart distillery busy five days a week just to keep pace with the demand, Monahan said.
And unlike other distilleries’ social media efforts, it’s worth the effort to follow Feisty Spirits on Facebook and subscribe to their newsletter. There you will find all sorts of cool, collaborative events — like the recent chocolate and whiskey pairing or the free Mini Distillery Festival or special release parties — that feature the offbeat, unique products of the Feisty stills. For more about Feisty and the various spirits they produce, go to feistyspirits.com.

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