Monday, August 19, 2019

Blackhat Distillery to pick up where Blue Fish left off

Posted By on Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 6:05 PM

Colorado Springs' newest distillery just announced its tentative opening, set for mid September.

Blackhat Distillery comes by way of the not-long-ago shuttering of Blue Fish Distillery.

"We heard they were closing," says co-owner Matt Bonno, and we came in before the lease was up and struck a deal with John and Ellen [Fisher] to purchase the business, including nine barrels of finished product, all their equipment, and their recipes." 

Bonno's name should be familiar from Boxing Brothers Ciderhouse (formerly Colorado Common), and he's partnered financially here with Joe Koscove of the Koscove Metal family as well as an accountant friend named David Varnum. But he's also brought in the talents of Allen Oliver (formerly of Cockpit Craft Distillery and Rocky Mountain Brewery) to be head distiller, as well as rockstar local bartender Montana Horsfall of Craft Cocktail Inc. to be Blackhat's director. 
  • Courtesy Blackhat Distillery
Bonno says the idea with Blackhat is to "build off what they had been doing and take that in our own direction." Hence the new name, which he says was built around the concept of people who changed history, "whether they were royals, rebels, outlaws, badasses, they always wore a black hat — whether that's a top hat, a bowler, a fur hat, a flat bill — it was worn by people doing and changing things. There's the idea of if you're a mover and a shaker, an innovator, then a black hat's for you. We're playing off that, the history that got us where we are."

As for the distillery's focus, it'll be on rums and agave spirits (like tequilas, but you can't call them that when you aren't making them in the proper area of Mexico). Which isn't to say there won't be a vodka and whiskies on the horizon: They're already aging product to become bourbon in two years.

Look for a 100-percent blackstrap molasses rum, Jamaican-style, as well as a Cuban-style sugarcane rum, plus barrel-aged and spiced rums. On the opening weeks, they plan to sell coconut, mango and pineapple-infused rums made out of the Blue Fish product they purchased. As for the blue agave spirits, expect both a pure Mexican-style sipping (not-) tequila as well as a mixed light and dark agave blended spirit, better for mixings, says Bonno.

Bonno says he plans to let Oliver guide the distillery's direction, but he's been able to be a sounding board on recipe development and help out with aspects such as ingredient-supply contacts, given his experience at his cidery. One cool tie-in, he says, is an upcoming traditional apple brandy, for which he's been able to help guide Oliver on making a great cider from which a great brandy can be distilled, he says. He brings a strong knowledge of fruit flavorings into alcohols.
click to enlarge Montana Horsfall will create Blackhat's cocktail menus in her role as distillery director. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Montana Horsfall will create Blackhat's cocktail menus in her role as distillery director.
Oliver, meanwhile, is a bitters wizard, hear Horsfall tell it. He makes a diverse array of his own bitters, which Blackhat plans to help him develop into his own label for retail sale. She says anything she'll need in the tasting room for her cocktail creation, Oliver can make. (That's the way the liquor laws demand it be done anyway, in distilleries, which can't serve other brands' spirits and liqueurs.)

The shared vision, she explains, is that as a guest, if you enjoy your spirit sampling and then a cocktail, they'll be able to send you home with just about everything you need to make it, from their base spirit to the liqueur and bitters — like a to-go kit.

"Everything I'm about with Craft Cocktail Inc. [her business, which she'll continue to run, with Blackhat's promotional support] is teaching people how to make good cocktails at home," she says. "If it's not five ingredients or less I didn't do it right."

That said, she's planning for an approachable, "simplistic" menu, but also a special higher-end drink list that must be requested, she says. 

Blackhat hopes to launch by a target date of the weekend of Sept. 20-22, and keep regular hours: 3-9 p.m., Tuesday-Thursdays; until 11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; and 3-7 p.m. Sundays, tentatively. They'll likely have food trucks park on site (5745 Industrial Place, Suite A) on weekends. 

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