When Jeff Lindauer was a boy, his father purchased land in the northern Colorado Rockies, completely surrounded by Roosevelt National Forest. One of the rituals on family camping trips was drinking from the spring at 9,044 feet; the pure, pristine water provided a direct connection to nature. As a successful adult, Lindauer built a home on his father’s property and continued to use the land for vacations and retreats.
About five years ago, Lindauer and his childhood friend, Russ Wall, visited the spring at midnight for a drink under the stars. It was a moment of epiphany for Wall, who was astounded by the quality of the water and suggested to Lindauer that they should bottle it. The project proved impractical, but eventually gave way to the idea of using that water as a base for distilled spirits.
“About 60% of a bottle of 80 proof spirits consists of water,” says Lindauer. “We have the purest water on planet earth—it flows straight from the Rockies, and never comes into contact with a municipal water source—so why not use it to produce a high-quality craft spirit?”
Spring 44 entered the market in June 2011, and is currently making its debut in Florida. The product line consists of Vodka, Honey-Flavored Vodka and Gin. Lindauer believes that craft distilled spirits will follow a similar path to other categories such as beer, coffee and soda, with artisanal products made in increasingly larger quantities for general distribution—technique and quality are the key factors for him, rather than size. He is also an unabashed cheerleader for American-made, superpremium spirits as an alternative to imports.
The Spring 44 Vodka ($25) has a fragrant nose with aromas of sweet corn and exotic spices. In the mouth, it displays a strong herbal identity paired with a volutuous texture (the result of the addition of agave); the sweetness returns on the finish, which is long and resonant. This is a vodka of considerable character and depth of flavor, which would make a striking Martini. Taken by itself, the Honey-Flavored Vodka ($25) is less successful, but the overtones of hazelnut and vanilla in the spirit open up a range of interesting cocktail possibilities. Spring 44 Gin ($30) is balanced and harmonious, the only Gin I’ve encountered which could be described as elegant. While it exhibits a restrained use of botanicals, it is infused with juniper, anise, and mouth-coating flavors of lemon and orange.