The idea for Branch & Barrel Distilling began in 2012 when three longtime friends decided to learn how to make a good whiskey together.
Founders Ryan Morgan, Scott Freund and Tom Sielaff ordered books about how to make whiskey on Amazon and read them cover to cover, spending the next three years learning the ropes. Since they didn’t have access to barrels in which to age their spirits at the time, they did the next best thing they could think of: The trio added tree branches from Tom’s backyard into Mason jars to impart flavor as they aged whiskey for six months.
Morgan admits that a majority of the finished jars weren’t good — but not all of them. Among the jars with branches from oak, apple and aspen trees, one that stood out was the whiskey aged with plum tree branches, which Morgan says had a great taste and a unique, beautiful purple color.
After receiving positive feedback from friends, the three compiled a business plan. In honor of their home distilling and aging roots, they named their new business Branch & Barrel Distilling and officially launched in 2015. The business has expanded three times since then, and is currently open at 15353 East Hinsdale Circle in Centennial.
The group’s creativity and boldness didn’t end in Tom’s yard: Branch & Barrel continues to embrace innovation and experimentation when it comes to whiskey. In addition to its signature flagship bourbon, its 3-Way Bourbon is aged in a barrel that was first used for cinnamon whiskey, then vanilla, and finally, maple syrup. “The wood absorbs all these flavors,” Morgan notes. And every barrel is a little different, he explains, with some having a more cinnamon-forward flavor and others with a strong vanilla note. “It’s really fun to see what comes out of it,” he adds.
The Pepper-Kissed Bourbon is aged for three years in white oak barrels with crushed red pepper and cayenne. These barrels are sourced from hot-sauce companies that have previously aged emulsified peppers in them. Morgan says this spicy bourbon works really well in Bloody Marys, Old Fashioneds and bourbon margaritas.
The distillery opts to use only Colorado ingredients, sourcing corn from the northeastern part of the state. For its Honey Barrel Aged Bourbon, Branch & Barrel partnered with Bee Squared Apiary in Berthoud to utilize honey barrels that soaked up all of the pure organic honey flavor. The distillery also teamed up with Denver-based Corvus Coffee Roasters for Café Miel, its aged coffee bourbon. The roaster’s blend of Brazilian, Colombian and Rwandan coffees is paired with the honey barrel-aged bourbon for a spirit with notes of espresso, mocha and honey.
Another aspect that is important to the group is sustainability. “From day one, we wanted to focus on repurposing, recycling and reusing,” Morgan says, noting that most of the distillery’s equipment is secondhand or was repurposed.
“People love our quality,” he adds, but offering products at an affordable price point is also a priority. He wants people to feel like they can actually enjoy the products, not just save them on a shelf for a special occasion.
Visit babdistilling.com to find store locations throughout Colorado where Branch & Barrel products are available. The tasting room is located at 15353 East Hinsdale Circle in Centennial and is open from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday. Walk-in distillery tours are also available.