Plan your own exploration by scoping our roundup of sublime places to taste and tour the spirits of New Mexico
BY SAFFRON TOMATO
Shove over, beer and wine, ’cause spirits have arrived in the Land of Enchantment.
The scene opens on your author post-sip, cradling a diminutive tasting glass of gin; my eyes have closed of their own accord, affording taste sensory dominion. This liquor transports one to the perfume of the high desert. But I am tasting it amid the aromatic landscape that inspired it. Santa Fe Spirits’ Wheeler’s Dry Desert Gin is infused with local botanicals like desert sage and our ubiquitous juniper, and its origins must be divine.
Santa Fe Spirits isn’t the only innovative craft distillery here in New Mexico. Nor is gin the only boldly reimagined spirit being refined and redefined in our state. Across New Mexico, the rise of micro-distilleries is turning a land once known for its enchantment into one renowned for its modern, ardent spirits. The New Mexico distillery trail starts in Santa Fe and weaves its way down to Algodones, then Albuquerque and finally down to Silver City.
New Mexico’s intoxicating geography invites one on a pilgrimage. And that journey offers its own essential reward. Here, I refer to the gin. And the whiskey. Also the rum. Plan your own exploration by scoping our roundup of sublime places to taste and tour the spirits of New Mexico.
Santa Fe Spirits
7505 Mallard Way, Unit I, Santa Fe, N.M.
The City Different is home to Santa Fe Spirits which produces more than merely that heavenly gin. This micro-distillery offers almost a half-dozen varieties in all. Founded by Colin Keegan in 2010, Santa Fe Spirits’ award-winning Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey brought home the gold among all other American whiskies at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge. The single malt’s mesquite-smoked grains give the sipping whiskey a rarefied Southwestern flavor.
The aforementioned gin’s ingredients, cholla blossoms, juniper, desert sage, osha root and hops, are all sourced locally, often from near the distillery. Their Apple Brandy perfects Tesuque apples with overtones of vanilla and cinnamon that ultimately give way to an earthy, ozone-sparked heart. The brand’s unusual Atapiño Liqueur results from soaking piñon nuts in single malt, white whiskey for two months; the final product is redolent of ponderosa pine resin, oaky notes and vanilla.
Distillery tours include tastings and are available on Thursdays from 1 to 5 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 1-7 p.m.
Book a $15 tour at bit.ly/SFSpiritstour.
15 Calle Alfredo, Algodones, N.M.
To the south, Greg McAllister and P. David Pacheco of Algodones Distillery use artesian well water in their gin, which is fragrant with lavender and juniper, as well as their vodka and blue corn-based moonshine whiskey and bourbon water. Algodones’ spirits make use of local botanicals like juniper, piñon and blue corn. Want something fortified? Try Enebra, a juniper liqueur fermented from their Ginebra gin. The distillery boasts an onsite tasting room, and tours are given by appointment on Friday through Sunday between 2 and 4 p.m.
On to Albuquerque!
Left Turn Distilling
2924 Girard NE
Left Turn opened in fall 2013, making it Albuquerque’s oldest extant distillery. I profiled Left Turn Distilling’s gin back in March. It was my reintroduction to the delights of this oft-ignored spirit. Their Old Tom-style gin recalls descriptions of 18th century London’s version and has garnered awards on national and international levels and earned one Saffron Tomato as a fan.
Moreover, distiller Brian Langwell has cooked up a rum that’s like New Mexico in a glass, flavored with macerated piñon nuts. For a state so totally unsuited to sugar cane, we’re lucking into some truly unique rums. Left Turn’s Blue Corn Whiskey is just coming out of its oak casks, and I for one am incredibly curious.
For updated event information, consult their Facebook page at facebook.com/LeftTurnDistilling.
2921 Stanford NE
Distillery365, the Duke City’s brand-new brewery and distillery, names all its spirits after hiking trails in New Mexico. Their Horsethief molasses-based rum, Holy Ghost native corn-derived vodka and Tres Pistolas bourbon all make use of local ingredients. Folks seem to be particularly excited about Distillery365’s Bloody Mary bar, which debuted less than a month ago. Each and every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., they host the mix-your-own-Bloody Mary bar with The Lunch Box food truck on hand for brunch service.
Visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/Distillery365 for updated event information.
Our tour concludes at our state’s southernmost distillery.
Little Toad Creek Brewery & Distillery
200 N. Bullard Street, Silver City, N.M.
Perhaps the smallest in terms of production, Little Toad offers a surprisingly large variety to tempt spirit lovers in southwest New Mexico and beyond. Little Toad Creek handcrafts vodka, rum, whiskey and a variety of liqueurs in small batches. They’re particularly excited about a green chile vodka they swear makes the world’s greatest Bloody Mary. Their spiced rum and white whiskey are also local favorites. A complete dining and drinking destination, Little Toad Creek serves their own beer, wine and spirits alongside pub food and a robust entertainment schedule.
Saffron Tomato always believed she was a rum kinda gal. Of late, her taste in spirits has grown rather broad, and she totally blames the brilliant distillers of New Mexico.
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