Nothing to see here. Just a home distiller building a business in spite of the challenges 2020 presented for the restaurant industry.
If that doesn’t catch your attention, not much will.
Blackhat Distillery started in September 2019 and brought on Kim Immel as its head distiller. He’d been injured and was at home on leave from his railroad job when he picked up home distilling as a hobby. No background in chemistry; no experience in the food service industry. He simply appreciated quality ingredients and wanted to spend his time productively. After a few trial batches, he found he was quite good. He started passing his product to his friends as gifts and developed a bit of a reputation amongst his circle.
One of those friends invited him look at a space just purchased to become a re-branded distillery. When Kim gave his wife, Jess, a run-down of the meeting, he feared he had been a bit too honest with his interviewers. The space was set up as a distillery, but he felt there was quite a bit of work that could be done to improve the existing product. Apparently, his honesty and passion for quality was exactly what the owners were looking for. He received a call minutes later offering him the position.
“I was in the army and then at the railroad. I had a path that didn’t necessarily include being a business owner, but here we are,” he shrugs.
Within the first six months, they won two gold and two silver medals in the World Spirits Competition. Jess recalls that Kim’s first reaction was “Only silver? Why!?” Although they chuckle about it now, it is a testament to the standard to which they hold themselves and their product.
They have been functioning with small batch production and high-quality ingredients with each run (or batch) only producing 100 bottles at a time. But, batches of what?
Blackhat fills a niche market for making high-quality agave spirits (better known as tequila when produced in a different part of the world) and rum. This along with brandy, the occasional small batch single malt whiskey and seasonal spirits when they have the time. All are top shelf, following the “grain-to-glass” model which uses premium ingredients sourced directly from farmers to impart the true flavor of the thing. It’s almost a “Willy Wonka effect”–the agave spirits taste like agave, the apple brandy tastes like apples and the molasses is prominent in the rum.
Their spirits are developed to stand alone and are not meant to be back-sweetened or altered after distilling. What comes out of the pot, goes in the bottle.
“I am not going to put something in a bottle that I don’t want to drink,” says Kim. “We know where our ingredients come from,” Jess says. This honors the ingredients and allows them to state confidently if a product is gluten-free or certified vegan (many of them are).
Get down to the tasting room and take advantage of their small batch offerings and uniquely curated cocktails now, as 2022 is set to be a big year for the Immel family and Blackhat Distillery. They have outgrown their 2,000 square feet and are set to move into a 13,000-square-foot space at Fillmore and Nevada soon. The new location will upgrade from a 175-gallon to a 1,000-gallon still. They are looking forward to growing their Barrel Program as well as starting to age more of their spirits to diversify their offerings. With the changes, they are set to become one of the largest producing distilleries in the state.
Their current tasting room on the south side of Colorado Springs has become known for its elevated, spirit-forward cocktails. Bartenders highlight the integrity of the ingredients and offer patrons a top-shelf version of something they may have had a different relationship with until now. Patrons often mention, for instance, that they don’t drink tequila. Kim just smiles, thinking, “You don’t… yet.”