By Jeffrey V. Smith
Zach and Nick Bouck have taken their enthusiasm for whiskey further than most, and now legally make their own. Actually, they make several varieties of the popular spirit and have plans to create many more. It took years of saving, planning and research, but the two are now crafting their own unique, small-batch recipes at their Bouck Brothers Distillery in Idaho Springs.
The idea to have a distillery wasn’t always the idea. The North Dakota natives were focused on developing their home brewing skills after moving to Colorado—Nick in 1999 and Zack in 2003. When they decided it was time to turn their talents into profits and began researching ways to “get into the industry,” the two discovered distilling whiskey was similar to brewing.
“In the process of researching and going to distilleries and finding out it’s not too vastly different from home brewing, we figured we could give it a shot,” Nick said. “What we didn’t anticipate were all the rules and regulations.”
Once they discovered it’s illegal to distill spirits at home, the Boucks decided if they were going to get into making whiskey, they might as well not go to jail. Research on how to open a distillery began, and visits to established distilleries in Denver, Minnesota and San Diego to get different perspectives soon followed. Meeting other distillers and learning more about the industry inspired them even more to begin creating their own “adventurous” spirits.
“Everybody was really welcoming and a great resource for us, helping us along the way instead of saying ‘we have secrets and you can’t find out how we do it,’” Nick explained. “Instead, they said… ‘I’ll show you exactly how we do it, and call me if you need anything afterwards.’ It’s really a great community to be involved in. We thought it was a good fit for us, so we decided to pursue it.”
According to Zach, the brothers are additionally intrigued by distilling whiskey because the door is wide open for experimentation and the same creative spirit that attracted them to brewing.
“One of the cool things about the brewing world is that as microbreweries became more common, a lot of them began to put out unique and amazing stuff,” Zach said. “I think the distilling world can go in that direction. One of things we want to create is a very unique spirit. We want to keep doing unique and innovative stuff and that’s a big push for being in the industry as well.”
Creating new flavors is very appealing to the Boucks. “I like when you go to a nice cocktail bar, or make home cocktails, and people put ingredients in and make a really unique spirit. To try something, to taste something no one’s every tasted before, is really cool.”
The idea is to have four signature whiskey products—white, bourbon, coffee and “Idaho Springs” whiskey—that “go to the world,” then, do as many one-of-a-kind, single barrel, tasting-room-only releases as they can. “We want to establish people coming to the tasting room for these unique experiences,” Zach said. “We did a cinnamon whiskey this summer. That worked really well.”
Before opening their distillery, the brothers took their time to be sure their dream unfolded in the right way. They spent close to nine years saving, and operate without debt. Although they refer to the distillery as their “first job,” they each keep “second” ones, for now. Nick works at a law firm and Zach co-created and help run an investment firm. “This is nights and weekends for us for awhile,” Zach said.
The Boucks have done almost everything from the start—including build the tasting room’s furniture and design their logo and labels in house—but they recently hired Grand County-based distiller Matt Wyant, who has helped them refine their process. “[Bouck Brothers Distillery] is a real unique operation. We’re trying to put out a really good spirit that tastes smooth, and try some different stuff that, hopefully, people will really enjoy,” Wyant said.
As the idea to open a distillery took flight, Nick and Zach, who both currently live in Denver, knew they wanted the business to be located in the mountains. “We figured if we opened a distillery in Denver, we would never be in the mountains again,” Zach said. They ultimately found the perfect space in the former Daylight Donuts building on Colorado Boulevard in Idaho Springs.
The two discovered the town more than a decade ago “like a lot of people do,” by getting stuck in Interstate 70 traffic, and deciding to get a bite to eat. It didn’t take long to discover the town had much more to offer then food. “Idaho Springs is like a hidden gem of Colorado,” Zach said. “I think in 10 years you’re not going to recognize this place because it’s such an up-and-coming area.”
Despite only being open since last June, the business is already integrating itself into the town. They joined the Chamber of Commerce and have already collaborated with Tommyknocker Brewery and Westbound & Down. A pairing with Smokin’ Yards BBQ is in the works, too. “We’re trying to get as involved in Idaho Springs as we can,” Zach said.
The distillery offers free samples in its tasting room from noon-7 p.m. as well as tours with samples for $10 on the hour on Saturdays from 1-6 p.m. Tours last about 30 minutes and include the brothers’ one-of-a-kind distilling process—from grain to barrel to glass.
Bottles of Bouck Brothers whiskey are available in Idaho Springs at Mountain Moonshine and Clear Creek Discount Liquors and Marina Square Wine & Spirits in Denver. Coopers on the Creek in Georgetown and Westbound & Down in Idaho Springs serve the distillery’s whiskey at their bars.
Bouck Brothers Distillery
2731 Colorado Blvd., Idaho Springs
303-567-2547 • www.bouckbros.com
Originally published in the February 2017 issue of the MMAC Monthly