Talnua brings Irish-style Single Pot Still Whiskey to Colorado

Photos: Natasha Lovato

Photos: Natasha Lovato

New distillery brings unique Irish style whiskey production to Colorado

By Katie Coakley

Take a look around: These are not the green fields of Ireland. However, a new distillery in Arvada is bringing a uniquely Irish style of whiskey production to Colorado. Since opening on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, Patrick and Meagan Miller of Talnua Distillery have been creating triple-distilled Irish-style single pot still whiskey — reportedly the first outside of Ireland.

This particular style of whiskey, like many bursts of genius, was born from necessity, explained Patrick, founder and head distiller at Talnua. In 1682, the British Crown passed a malt tax. Because you need malt to make both whiskey and beer, it was a successful revenue stream. But the canny Irish found a workaround.

By mixing unmalted (and therefore untaxed) barley with malted (and taxed) barley, they could create a pretty tasty whiskey at a lower cost. The addition of unmalted barley also changed the complexity, mouth feel and density of the spirit, Miller said.

This recipe, and the use of the pot still (a copper apparatus that distills whiskey in single batches), continued for hundreds of years in Ireland, becoming the basis of traditional Irish single pot still whiskey.

By the 1960s, the single pot still process had almost disappeared due to the proliferation and ease of the continuous still (allowing continuous distillation, rather than separate batches). Irish independence led to a loss of British trade, and Ireland lost its biggest market during American prohibition.

At one time, there were only two single pot still whiskey distilleries left in Ireland. However, rather than disappearing, Irish single pot still whiskey has seen a renaissance in the past five years.

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Bringing Ireland to Colorado

There are a few elements necessary to call a spirit “single pot still whiskey.” It is also known in Ireland as pure pot still whiskey, and “pure” or “single” refer to the fact that it comes from a single distillery, as with a single malt whiskey.

“Currently in Ireland, legally, it needs to be 30 percent unmalted barley to be single pot still, also 30 percent malted barley, minimum,” Miller said. “Then you can adjust the barley any way that you want to create your mash bill. You can only use up to five percent other unmalted cereals in the mash bill … so it’s very barley heavy. We are 100 percent barley here.”

In addition to this specific, traditional recipe, Talnua’s whiskey is also triple-distilled. While most Scottish whiskeys are conventionally double distilled, the Irish are known for adding another step to the process. Every time the spirit is distilled, it becomes stronger in character and more alcoholic.

Though the grain bill and the distillation process are identical to those found in Ireland, Talnua’s whiskey is uniquely Coloradan.

“We want to bring American terroir to this Irish style of whiskey,” Miller said. “More specifically, the Colorado terroir.”

Climate, water, soil quality and other factors influence the taste of the finished product, as do the ingredients. By sourcing barley from Root Shoot Malting and using Rocky Mountain water from Eldorado Springs, Talnua’s whiskey is truly unlike anything else in the world.

Pouring now

Talnua opened its doors with four single pot still spirits: a blended whiskey, a year-old whiskey, a gin and a barrel-finished gin.

The Inishan (Gaelic for “old island”) is a blended whiskey. A three-year-old corn and wheat-based whiskey imported from the Cooley distillery in County Louth, Ireland, is blended with Talnua’s single pot still whiskey that’s been aged for a year in charred American White Oak new kilderkin barrels. With a smooth caramel finish, it’s a solid, enjoyable offering.

Talnua’s Carrowdair is the distillery’s year-old, single pot still whiskey. It’s quite spicy and young, but Miller has plans for this spirit.

“Right now, it’s a shotgun blast,” Miller said. “We’ve got a bunch of different sizes, a bunch of different char and wine toast levels, some port casks, some rum casks … a bunch of different styles that we’re honing into exactly what oak speaks best to the spirit. Eventually we’ll start weeding little ones out as they go into product lines. And then that product line will become more and more consistent once the oak tells us what it likes best and what we like best on the oak.”

Talnua is also offering a triple-distilled single pot gin: the Finglas, a Dutch-style gin, and the Finglas Dubdair, which is aged six to nine months in new American oak barrels.

“It’s been one of those awesome things from the gin standpoint, to be able to make this just like a single pot still whiskey would be made, but then add the botanicals to it and add the oak profile to it as well,” Miller said.

Talnua is the newest player in Colorado’s whiskey scene, but they’re bringing something new and unique to the table. So visit the tasting room, grab a dram and go for the tour — there are centuries of stories to be shared.

The Talnua tasting room is open from 5-9 p.m. Thursday to Saturday 5405 W. 56th Ave, Unit C, Arvada

Katie Coakley is a Denver-based freelance writer who focuses on craft beer and spirits, travel and outdoor adventures — the best stories combine all three. You can see more of her work at katiecoakley.com.