Small Colorado craft distillery Dancing Pines opens Breckenridge tasting room |

Small Colorado craft distillery Dancing Pines opens Breckenridge tasting room

Bottles of Dancing Pines vodka are on display at the small Colorado craft distillery's new Breckenridge tasting room.
Eli Pace / |

Most people who take a flight at the Dancing Pines tasting room in Breckenridge don’t pass up one of the small craft distiller’s most expensive and popular products, a $44 bottle of Black Walnut Bourbon.

It’s a two-year straight bourbon with black walnuts put directly into the barrel and left to sit for several months. It makes for a surprisingly smooth, dark-colored bourbon that’s “a little sweeter” and comes with “a nutty finish to it,” said Dancing Pines distiller and masher Jody Thorpe, who has been working with the small distillery in Berthoud for about six years. “For some of the people who don’t like bourbon, it takes a little ‘heat’ out of the drink.”

While bourbon is more synonymous with other parts of the country, namely Southern states like Kentucky and Tennessee, Colorado can make it too. “Bourbon County, Kentucky, might have a beef with that,” Thorpe said, “but when you look at the law, it is our national spirit.”

And he’s right. Bourbon is defined by an act of Congress: It must be more than 50 percent corn, aged in a white oak barrel for at least two years and made in America.

The small-batch craft distillery hits all these notes as it regularly produces a lineup of two unique Colorado bourbons, alongside a rye whiskey, gin, spiced rum and vodka. They’ve been in business since 2010, when three partners — including the husband-and-wife duo of Kristian and Kimberly Naslund — came together to make Dancing Pines only the 13th distiller in the state to obtain the necessary permits.

The distillery’s name comes from a song Kimberly wrote for Kristian, and now Dancing Pines operates tasting rooms in Estes Park and, with the opening of its newest location about two months ago, Breckenridge.

Colorado law prohibits any distillery from having more than two tasting rooms in the state, and so with the Breckenridge tasting room, Dancing Pines is at the limit.

Since its opening, business at the Breckenridge tasting room has been booming, said Rick Galgas, who’s been working to open Dancing Pines’ new location and estimated that traffic there has at least doubled in the last eight to nine weeks.

One of the most popular offerings at the tasting room is a flight of four half-shot samples, which goes for $8. However, for anyone who later buys a bottle, that flight will be free.

In addition to the Black Walnut Bourbon, Dancing Pines also makes a straight two-year bourbon from 75 percent corn, 12.5 percent rye and 12.5 percent barley. The ingredients are all organic and non-GMO, with the grain coming from a farm near the facility in Berthoud.

Another one of Dancing Pine’s most popular bottles is its Chai liqueur, made with Vietnamese cinnamon, black peppers and “special ingredients” that give it a soft spice reminiscent of a $5 non-alcoholic drink one might find at a coffee shop.

Made from 100 percent rye, Dancing Pine’s rye whiskey is another point of pride for the small craft distillery, while the gin “is a little bit different than your grandfather’s gin,” Thorpe said, and it comes with more of “a liquorish finish” than normal.

“Not your Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum,” Dancing Pine’s rum includes hints of vanilla, cinnamon and a “few other things that make a great spiced rum.”

“We do the herbs and spices in the cold liquor, which a lot of guys will do it in the still,” he said. “It takes longer, but we think it tastes better.”

The only product that’s not grain-to-bottle at Dancing Pines is the vodka. Dancing Pines gets its chardonnay grapes for it from a vendor in California, distills the vodka 90 times and makes “one of the nicest vodkas you can get,” Thorpe said.

“Everything we do is small batch,” he continued. “We take our time to make sure it’s right before it goes in the bottle.”

Dancing Pines also takes pride in educating its customers, being a good steward of the environment and allowing its workers 40 hours paid each year to volunteer with an organization of their choice.

The Breckenridge tasting room is at 201 N. Main St. It’s open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Reservations are not required.

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