Aloft with spirits
Calder Curtis was halfway through a mechanical engineering degree, which he planned to finish upon returning from Afghanistan several years ago, "but I decided I didn't want to sit behind a desk for the rest of my career," he says. So instead, the Castle Rock native began running numbers on creating his own distillery.
Now 30, he remains an Air Force reservist mechanic part time, while also doing occasional machine and programming work on the civilian side at our airport. But on the second weekend of April, he'll also officially open the doors for Cockpit Craft Distillery (4893 Galley Road, see Facebook page) with the help of his wife, Asia.
He and military friends had taken an interest in whiskey and moonshine in particular about five years ago, trying to figure out "what exactly separates the good ones from the bad ones," doing research that surpassed his earlier foray into homebrewing. First came some garage experiments, then came an official crash education at Downslope Distilling's Distillery School.
Later, his expertise in welding and metal fabrication came in handy, as he spent just a tenth of the usual cost to buy a new still and constructed his own separated column still, borrowing his favorite aspects from other commercial designs. He also made a spiffy bar top from the tail section of an old WWII-era C-45 transport plane. All his products also draw label inspiration from WWII aircraft, hence his P-51 Mustang Whiskey, FG-1D Corsair Rum and P-38 Lightning Moonshine (to be released later).
Curtis says the rum is a basic white rum from molasses and evaporated cane juice, which features banana and clove notes in the finish. He distills his "really smooth" whiskey from a bourbon mash, meaning the grain bill calls for more than 51-percent corn, otherwise being filled by barley, wheat, rye and some undisclosed specialty malts in this case. He ages it in used bourbon barrels (official bourbons must age in new charred white oak barrels) with charred oak spirals for a couple weeks to take on more flavor, bottling it at 80 proof. That's the minimum to be legally called a bourbon, and indeed later he will aim to age some in new barrels for a straight bourbon. He also wants to make vodka, gin, brandy and other spirits eventually.
Expect bottles on local liquor store shelves shortly after the opening of the tasting room, which will feature house cocktails and guest food trucks.
Bonny and Read to open
It was last July when we first told you about the coming of Bonny and Read (101 N. Tejon, #102, bonnyandreadsfish.com), the new, upscale seafood venture by Rabbit Hole and Supernova proprietor Joe Campana.
He had anticipated opening sometime last October, but ironing out all the structural requirements with the local building authorities took much longer than expected, he says. He now hopes to begin service as early as next Monday, March 21, or within a couple days of that.