LEE SPIRITS EXPANDS TO TEXAS
by Andrew Chalk
Brandon Hedrick is a man on a mission. As Director of Sales for Colorado Springs based Lee Spirits Co. he is responsible for putting Lee Spirits products in Texas. That is a huge market expansion for the distillery that occupies just 400 square feet of space in Colorado Springs, Colorado (it should be mentioned that they are building a bigger facility). Hedrick will visit hundreds of bar managers, beverage directors, liquor store managers and the like explaining Lee Sprits extensive microslicing of the gin category in order to offer every nuance of the spirit.
His Dallas customers so far include Bowen House, Local Traveller, and Armory, indicating that bars that cater to the discerning cocktail drinker are the place to find his products on-premise. Twin’s (Sigel’s), Total, and Specs are among his Texas retail stores.
On a recent sales odyssey (for visiting Texas by road is that) he tasted me on his gins and a couple of cocktails. The traditional dry gin is 90 proof, distilled from corn, has no added sugar, and is flavored by seven botanicals. Readers curious about the alignment with London dry gin that dominates the market might be interested to know that those botanicals are the same seven (including juniper, lemon peel, orange peel, cardamom, coriander, angelica, and orris root) found in Plymouth Dry Gin (although the proportions are not, since they are proprietary to each distiller). Distillation differs in that the British run their stills over a naked flame whereas Lee (and most American distillers) pipe steam through the wash where the botanical bag sits. Hedrick says “Using steam allows us to leave the botanicals in the still for the entire still run, this gives our gin a unique flavor which we believe best replicates pre-prohibition American dry gin”. I can report that the finished product, sipped neat, is crisp, clean, and accented moderately with juniper.
Hedrick describes a situation he sometimes finds promoting his Lavender or Strawberry Ginger Gin. The buyer will say that they only sell the classics. He refers them to the bottle of Hendricks Gin sitting on their back bar. What is it but a flavored gin (in this case with cucumber and rosewater)? Maybe it is at times like these that Hedrick’s degree in psychology is handy.
We taste through his product range and I find some notable highlights. A lavender gin is the top seller in Colorado. Any state that regards weed as a food group can’t be all wrong. Maybe it is the fact that actual lavender buds are macerated in the spirit rather than the common method of using lavender oil. “You can taste the difference!” exhorts Hedrick. He says that this expression is his least favorite neat, but his favorite in a cocktail. I confirm this thought, trying it in a French 75 and a Bee’s Knees to appreciate the blending qualities.
One of my favorites is the “Forbidden Fruit” liqueur. I once went out with a girl who claimed parts of her were forbidden fruit (I forget which parts) but in this case the term refers to white grapefruit, (Colorado) honey, and a blend of spices. There is a full backstory that bartenders can recite to attentive patrons (or several times to those that are inebriated). For my part, I have always liked the flavor profile of grapefruit and appreciated how it evolves when given a backbone of hard liquor. This liqueur is essentially a pre-built forbidden fruit cocktail with a liqueur’s lower alcohol point. May it catch on!
There are five liqueurs currently in the product line. Plus a peppermint schnapps, and a blended corn and rye whiskey. Treat the product line as an evolving protean entity as distiller Cole Chapman appears to run a fairly Willy Wonkerish business model. So far it has produced an astonishingly creative line of products. Keep an eye on Lee Spirits -- their expansion in Texas seems inevitable.
DISCLOSURE: Samples paid for by Lee Spirits. All other costs paid for by Andrew Chalk.