Western Gael Distillery fires up the still in Arvada

 Co-owners of Western Gael Distillery - Brandon Rawlings, Meagan Miller and Patrick Miller from left to right. 

Co-owners of Western Gael Distillery - Brandon Rawlings, Meagan Miller and Patrick Miller from left to right. 

By Kailyn Lamb

The former home of Rado Distilling is under new ownership and is planning to deliver spirits with distinctly Irish roots. 

Western Gael Distillery will open at 5405 W 56th Ave, this summer, making Irish-inspired whiskeys that have been triple distilled using a single pot still.  

Traditionally, Irish distillers make whiskey in the single pot still versus the column still, used in Scottish-style whiskeys. Western Gael co-owner Patrick Miller said some Irish distillers would also go through the process of putting the spirits through the rounded still three times, giving whiskeys a more full-bodied flavor. It’s a time intensive process, Miller said, but it is also a key ingredient to good whiskey. 

“Time really puts the finesse on whiskey,” he said.

In addition to a long distilling process, Irish distillers typically age their whiskey for three years. While Miller, who was formerly a distiller at Stranahan’s, said they would follow some of the strict aging rules for their whiskeys, Western Gael will also put out blended products, gin, and younger, more American-style whiskey as well. 

“This is the beautiful thing about being an American, is those rules don’t exist. Age is not the end all, be all. Some people really like young, hot whiskey,” Miller said. “We want to lead and create the style of what it means to be American single pot still.”   

The distillery will offer a whiskey that’s been aged for 10 weeks, as well as some nine-month whiskeys that have been blended with three-year old whiskey from the Cooley Distillery in Ireland. They will also build up a selection of their own product aging the traditional three-year stint.  

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Western Gael is currently distilling on a 450-gallon moonshine style pot still that was in the building after Rado left. Miller said they will order four new stills for Western Gael to get things rolling. Three will be used for whiskey, and one will be dedicated to making gin. They will be offering a Gaelic moonshine once they open. 

Western Gael filled its first barrel on St. Patrick’s Day. Miller said they are planning on aging the St. Patrick’s barrel for two years to meet the American whiskey aging rules before they release it. The distillers are using American charred oak, as well as regular oak barrels for spirits, to help bring in extra flavor. Miller said they have started aging some whiskey in bourbon barrels from Breckenridge Distillery as well. Western Gael is also getting its barley from local farmers and sending mash back to local farmers to feed animals. 

Miller, and his co-owner and wife Meagan, hopped the pond to spend some time in Ireland, learning the history of whiskey there and how it’s made. Miller wanted to take the traditions of Irish whiskey and bring them over to Colorado. Miller said Western Gael will be the only distillery outside of Ireland using the method of mixing pre-malted barley with unmalted barley to get a more distinct flavor. 

“We really want to be part of that resurrection of a style,” Miller said.