It’s 19 degrees Fahrenheit at 5 a.m.—a far cry from the sub-zero temperatures of releases past, but still cold enough to chill the hot coffee in our metal mugs in a matter of minutes. I’m one of several hundred people waiting in line outside of Stranahan’s distillery in Denver, Colorado for a chance to buy two bottles of Snowflake, a limited release whiskey blended specially by Stranahan’s Master Distiller Rob Dietrich.
The line starts on one side of the distillery, curves around the building, down an alley, and continues down the rest of the block. Some people are in tents, some are cocooned in sleeping bags with only their noses visible, and some are simply standing in a perpetual crunch, huddled together for warmth. All to buy two bottles of whiskey.
But this is not just any whiskey. This is whiskey with a cult following. This is the nineteenth Snowflake release. Following in Strahan’s tradition of naming whiskeys for Rocky Mountain summits, the 2016 Snowflake is called Crestone Peak. It’s a blend of seven different barrels in honor of Colorado’s seventh highest crest. One of the barrels included was an ex-Spanish Syrah Amador wine cask—an homage to the town of Crestone, which was originally part of a land grant the King of Spain gifted to Luis Maria Baca, one of the original settlers of what would become the American Southwest, in the 1600s. The other barrels used in this year’s batch include an ex-Madeira cask, an ex-old vine Zinfandel cask, an ex-Saint Croix rum cask, two four-year-old Stranahan’s whiskey casks, and a five-year-old Stranahan’s whiskey cask.