Eagle’s 808 Distillery expands its craft spirits offerings | VailDaily.com

Eagle’s 808 Distillery expands its craft spirits offerings

EAGLE — Forget everything you know about rum, either as the stuff that gets mixed with Coke or pineapple juice or is swilled by Caribbean pirates. Then, take a sip of Red Canyon Rum on the rocks.

The latest concoctions from 808 Distillery — a craft spirits distillery located in the Eagle area — are straight Red Canyon Rum and Red Canyon Spiced Rum. Both versions are painstakingly distilled and aged in one-gallon quantities.

"We are talking small, hand-crafted spirits,"said Jeff Leonardo, one of the partners behind 808 Distillery.

808 Distillery is embarking on its second year of operation by tripling its offerings. The distillery is headquartered in a little red building that looks out over the Eagle County Fairgrounds property and sits next door to co-owner Claude Seeman's home. The distillery has been a labor of love for Seeman and Leonardo and the two long-time locals built the company from the ground up — literally and figuratively — from designing and building the structure that houses the operation, to hand-crafting their liquors, to slapping the labels on the bottles. They even deliver the product.

They launched their business last summer with Leo's Limoncello — the lemon-flavored liquor that's become increasingly popular during the past few years.

Like their rum products, Leo's Limoncello is distilled in small batches and the craft product has made quite a reputation for itself.

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"We have won two gold medals with our limoncello, and we have only entered two events," said Seeman. "People really love it."

As they considered how to follow up on the success of their initial offering, Leonardo and Seeman decided to take on people's perceptions of rum.

"We wanted something that was more a traditional, aged rum. We want people to rethink what they think of as rum. This drinks more like a fine whiskey," said Leonardo.

Jar by jar

The genesis of both the limoncello and rum projects at 808 Distillery happens in a stainless steel and copper still — nicknamed Louanne — imported from Hillbilly Stills in Kentucky. Once the grain alcohol is distilled, it is diluted with water and then combined with other ingredients to make a distinctive product. In the case of limoncello, Seeman and Leonardo mix in some simple syrup and lemon peel. In the case of Red Canyon Rum, the mix includes oak chips while the spiced version includes vanilla bean and cinnamon stick as reflected in its name.

While that explanation sounds simple, the process is actually anything but. First off, it took a lot of time and bureaucratic effort to get 808 Distillery off the ground and with each new project, there's a lot of trial and error as Seeman and Leonardo hone in on the perfect recipe.

"We both have a real connection with food and flavors and building things," said Seeman. With their Red Canyon Rum and Red Canyon Spiced Rum projects now perfected, the duo plans to move on to create some equally distinctive vodka and gin products.

In a store near you

Seeman and Leonardo are the creative forces behind 808 Distillery (named after the property's address) but they are also the business' work force. It's definitely a hands-on operation.

808 does not sell its product on site, but the hand-crafted spirits can be found at a number of local liquor stores and on the menus at several local eateries. The duo is also building a following by donating product to various silent auctions and other fund-raisers. Their upcoming competition plans include Flavors of Colorado and the Denver International Spirits Competition.

To learn more about 808 Distillery, visit http://www.808distill.com.