Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey Just Released Two Snowflakes for the First Time Ever

Amber Gibson
Stranahan's Snowflake at Red RocksStranahan's

Beginning at 7 am this morning, nearly 2,000 people from all across the country gathered at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre on an unseasonably balmy December day in Denver. They weren't here for a concert though. These early risers were all eagerly awaiting their first taste of a cult classic whiskey as rare as they come. Stranahan's annual Snowflake release is legendary among whiskey lovers – a super small batch limited release that sells out in a matter of hours.

In years past, diehard fans pitched tents and camped outside the distillery for days on end in freezing temperatures to guarantee a chance to taste the coveted whiskey.This year was a more leisurely affair, with live local music, food trucks, corn hole tournaments and free espresso drinks by Goodhart Coffee for one epic tailgate.

For the first year ever, Stranahan's released two Snowflakes at once, after delaying the launch of the 2020 Sunshine Peak by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The flavor profiles for 2020 Sunshine Peak and 2021 Mount Eolus are polar opposites, by head distiller Owen Martin's design.
Stranahan's Snowflake 2020 and 2021Stranahan's

Both whiskeys are sweet and perfect to pair with dessert, but Sunshine Peak is brighter with more pronounced orchard fruit flavors, thanks to its apple brandy cask finish, combined with some California cabernet and Moscatel barrels. In contrast, Mount Eolus is spicier and earthier, achieved by aging the whiskey in Jose Cuervo's top shelf Reserva de la Familia reposado and extra añejo tequila barrels, which impart a peppery agave sweetness. The addition of rye barrels adds a hint of vanilla while tawny port, French oak and lightly peated casks round out the complex blend.

Each year, the limited batch of Snowflake is one of a kind, thanks to a unique blend of experimental barrel-aging with barrels sourced from across the globe. Snowflake is always released in early December and named after one of Colorado's Fourteeners. There were only 1500 bottles available of each vintage this year, and each guest was limited to two bottles per person per vintage at a price of $119.99 per bottle.

Stranahan's has pioneered American single malt whiskey since becoming Colorado's first legal distillery since Prohibition in 2004. Back in those days, they were distilling beer piped through a wall, and they've always used a 100% malt barley base grain, with all barley sourced from the Rocky Mountain region. Martin describes his whiskey as hitting the sweet spot between bourbon and Scotch whisky for whiskey connoisseurs. With Snowflake, Martin says that an extended marriage of the diverse casks is key to ensuring that flavors integrate well into a distinctive but cohesive masterpiece.

"My ultimate goal is to have a Snowflake that's just two components," Martin says. "I'm of the mind that less is more and if I can blend just two casks perfectly, then I'll have done my job."

If you manage to get your hands on a bottle on the secondary market, there's no better Christmas gift for the whiskey lover in your life. Otherwise, mark your calendars for next year and book a ticket to Denver if you're curious to taste Stranahan's Snowflake.

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Amber Gibson specializes in luxury travel, food, wine and wellness. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Robb Report, Departures, Hemispheres, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Fodor's, NPR, NBC and more. Champagne, dark chocolate and gelato are her biggest weaknesses.

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