Whiskey distilled in Colorado’s high country

Snitching Lady Distillery | Fairplay | Product: Beer, Wine & Spirits

Snitching Lady’s primary whiskey recipe was originally concocted by founder Thomas Williams’ great-grandfather in North Carolina. It involves an open flame, charred Carolina oak barrels, and patience. “It was passed from my dad [Richard] to me, and me and my dad have done everything to get the business to where it is today,” Williams says. 

After dabbling as a moonshiner himself, Williams, previously a chef and self-described “ski bum,” went legit with Snitching Lady Distillery in 2018. But he had started distilling with his license in 2017 to start filling a whiskey pipeline well before opening day. “For the first year, I focused on filling as many barrels as I could,” Williams says. He opened with clear moonshine instead of “caving” to the idea of buying whiskey and slapping his label on it. 

Snitching Lady makes whiskeys made with blue corn and rye as well as a bourbon and brandies made with Colorado-grown fruit. About 250 liquor stores in Colorado carry the distillery’s products. 

The brown spirits are aged in old shipping containers on Williams’ land at 11,800 feet above sea level (Fairplay is at 9,954 feet) until they’re ready for bottling. “We age everything on the side of Mount Sherman outside of Fairplay,” he says. The sunny days and cold nights make for a “lung effect” that adds to the flavor. “It breathes a lot more,” Williams explains. “There’s less atmospheric pressure, so it creates pressure inside the barrel.”  

He continues, “When it’s hot, it soaks into the wood more. When it’s cold, it brings itself out of the wood. It gives it more color, it gives it more flavor, and yes, the barrels do get destroyed a lot quicker.” 

While the distillery has grown every year it’s been in business, Williams wants to keep it relatively small. “I don’t want to produce too much to where I lose the concept of the love of what I do,” he says. “We try not to rush anything.” 

The Snitching Lady name is a tribute to Williams’ late fiancée, Rena Diane Aker, who earned the nickname by relaying her reservations about his backyard moonshining habit to the local authorities. “The distillery’s dedicated to her,” says Williams. “I named our main still after her, and she was a big fan of Fuji and Gala apples, so I made an apple brandy named after her—I called it Bobena’s Apple Brandy, because that was her nickname.”

This article is part of the 2021 Made in Colorado feature. To learn more about the Colorado companies changing manufacturing in the state, click here.