Durango Craft Spirits expects to open a 1,500-foot expansion by the end of the month, which will mainly help it double production of its craft bourbon from two barrels a month to four.
“We just ran out of room,” said Michael McCardell, who owns the craft distillery at 1120 Main Ave., along with his wife, Amy.
Though he’s sheepish to admit it – a tough year for retail and tourism after the 416 Fire and subsequent flooding – his sales grew at a healthy clip this year.
Sales from his tasting room are up 25 percent from 2017 and his distribution sales are up 20 percent.
In addition to bourbon, McCardell also distills a vodka and a moonshine whiskey.
Names for the liquors are drawn from local history.
Cinder Dick Bourbon comes from the name of old Pinkerton Detective Agency railroad investigators, who were called “Cinder Dicks.” Soiled Doves Vodka comes from the Victorian term for prostitutes, and Mayday Moonshine honors the old gold and silver mine west of Durango.
The expansion, McCardell said, will allow him to buy grains in larger quantities, which will save money. Also, he plans to rent the expanded room – with its rows of aging barreled bourbon – to parties, meetings and other events.
Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce, said the expansion of the distillery adds to the vibrancy of the north end of Main Avenue and is a nice complement to Ernie’s across the street, which features food trucks, a small indoor dining area with a bar and a patio.
“It’s wonderful to have more and more unique businesses like this downtown. It’s why people like to come to Durango; they discover unique shops downtown. It’s not just your typical cookie-cutter mall,” he said.
The added space that comes with the expansion, which will bring the distillery to 4,000 square feet, will allow him to set aside another room for sales of retail items such as T-shirts and mugs. Also, he will add three fermenters to the distilling operation.
Besides increasing his bourbon production, he expects to double the number of bottles per batch of vodka and moonshine to 2,000.
The expansion also will allow the McCardells to add a rye whiskey and a blue-corn bourbon to their offerings. In addition, they are considering adding a gin.
“We pride ourselves on being a grain-to-glass operation,” McCardell said, noting that many distillers simply purchase their product then bottle it under their own label.
Durango Craft Spirits also uses only Colorado grains and corns.
“Back during Prohibition,” he said, “they weren’t getting their grains from the Midwest.” The distillery’s corn comes from the Ute Mountain Ute’s Bow & Arrow farm near Towaoc.
The expansion also will allow Durango Craft Spirits to begin distributing in New Mexico, where there are fewer craft distilleries.
When McCardell was writing the business plan for Durango Craft Spirits, he said there were 20 craft distillers in Colorado. When he opened in January 2015, there were 40 in the state, and currently, more than 100 craft distillers operate in Colorado.
To begin selling across state lines, Durango Craft Spirits is required to partner with a distributer. The distillery currently self-distributes to 175 stores, bars and restaurants in Colorado.
“It’s easier to ship to another country than to another state,” McCardell said.
He added that the expansion will help assure a distributor that Durango Craft Spirits will be able to fulfill contracts without running out of product.
The McCardells opened Durango Craft Spirits in January 2015 in a building previously occupied by the Back Space Theatre. Originally, the building, which went up in 1939, housed Durango’s first Safeway.
In the spring, the McCardells plan to expand a little further by adding a room for billiards and darts.
Eventually, the business would like to occupy the entire building in the 1100 block of Main and gain a street-side presence.