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That’s the Spirit

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British-born Colin Keegan infuses the New Mexico desert into his artisanal brandy, gin and whiskeys.

By Sam Moulton

Architect-cum-distiller Colin Keegan. Photos by Jen Judge.
Architect-cum-distiller Colin Keegan. Photos by Jen Judge.
Santa Fe Spirits uses New Mexican botanicals to flavor its gin. Photos by Jen Judge.
Santa Fe Spirits uses New Mexican botanicals to flavor its gin. Photos by Jen Judge.
Tasting the barrel-aged manhattan made with Silver Coyote Whiskey. Photos by Jen Judge.
Tasting the barrel-aged manhattan made with Silver Coyote Whiskey. Photos by Jen Judge.

In 2010, with the local housing market still stalled out, Colin Keegan’s phone stopped ringing. The local, British-born architect and developer had been making batches of cider for friends with apples from the small orchard at his home outside of town, and “with more time on my hands, this little hobby took over everything,” he says. Fast-forward to today: His award-winning microdistillery Santa Fe Spirits now operates two tasting rooms and handcrafts five different spirits from predominantly locally sourced ingredients.

Silver Coyote Pure Malt Whiskey

Unlike most American “white dogs,” as distillers call white whiskeys, the unaged Silver Coyote isn’t corn-based. Instead, it’s crafted with 100 percent malted barley to create a slightly sweet and dry flavor profile more reminiscent of the pure-malt whiskeys found in Keegan’s native U.K.

Expedition Vodka

Distilled six times, this smooth and clean vodka is processed with local water from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, making it the ideal mixer for Santa Fe Spirits’ Ginger Lavender Lemon Drop, one of the downtown tasting room’s dozen or so signature cocktails.

Apple Brandy

Crafted from a blend of apples from northern New Mexico, including some from Keegan’s small orchard, this dry, Calvados-style brand is one of the distillery’s simplest spirits. While the flavor is big and bold, it’s made using only fruit juice and yeast, with no sugar added.

Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey

Double-distilled and aged for a minimum of two years in a combination of old and new white-oak bourbon barrels, this single malt is smoked with local mesquite wood instead of the traditional peat. The resulting smoky and mellow flavor “reminds people of the outdoors and campfires,” Keegan says.

Wheeler’s Gin

Named after Wheeler Peak, the highest peak in New Mexico, this dry and remarkably fragrant New World-style gin is made with
a host of local botanicals, including juniper, white desert sage, osha root and magenta-colored cholla cactus blossoms that flower in the spring and early summer.

A smokey manhattan made with Colkegan Whiskey. Photos by Jen Judge.
A smokey manhattan made with Colkegan Whiskey. Photos by Jen Judge.

SMOKEY MANHATTAN

  • 4 oz Colkegan Whiskey
  • 1 oz sweet vermouth
  • 4-5 dashes Fee Brothers Barrel Aged Whiskey Bitters

Served “up” and garnished with a Luxardo cherry

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