Retired Denver exec plans destination distillery in Littleton

Retired Denver exec plans destination distillery in Littleton

Sandy Rothe retired five years ago from his career at Deloitte as the Denver managing partner. Now, it's whiskey-making time.

Rothe, owner and head distiler of Whistling Hare Distillery, Westminster, plans to expand his business by rebranding the distillery as Turnbuckle Distilling. He has purchased five acres in Littleton at 13975 W. Bowles Ave. for a farm, distillery and tasting room.

Rothe stated, "Even though I am an accountant, I still need or want to be creative." "I've spent 40 years helping clients succeed, but my entrepreneurial spirit has always been there." Rothe said. This is an opportunity to be creative, entrepreneurial.

Rothe spent his entire career with Deloitte in Napa Valley. He remembers thinking it would be fun to open a winery after retirement. As Rothe didn't wish to relocate to Napa Valley, or Colorado's Western Slope in order to produce wine, he decided to create brandies from Colorado fruit. He was a fan of single malt whiskey and realized that distilling alcohol could be a better business model, while also incorporating his experiences from visiting wineries Napa Valley.

Rothe stated that he has always wanted to bring the Napa experience more to Colorado.

Rothe began reading about distilling, and even traveled from Scotland to Campbeltown to learn more about whiskey and distilling. Whistling Hare Distillery was for sale six years ago. Rothe chose to buy the distillery rather than start his own.

Rothe stated that he never expected this to be his final solution but it was an excellent way to begin.

Rothe is now outgrowing the space and has been dreaming about a place where farming and distilling could be combined.

Rothe started his land search in Colorado's Front Range ten years ago while he was still working at Deloitte. When the perfect parcel was available at C-470 and West Bowles Avenue, Rothe almost gave up. According to property records, Rothe bought the land for $765,000. Rothe stated that about half of the property was under a conservation easement requiring the land to be used for agricultural purposes.

Most people would not want this land, because they could not live there. He said, 'But for me, it allows me to grow crops, which was what I wanted.

Plans for Turnbuckle's new distilling facility show 16,000 square foot of buildings. The first is a barn structure that will be used for production and distillation, followed by the circular tasting room which resembles a grain silo. Next door is the farmhouse-inspired restaurant, as well as a cellar room and an outdoor patio. Rothe plans to cultivate herbs, botanicals and produce on the land surrounding the distillery, tasting room, and restaurant. Rothe, for example, mentioned growing lavender and lemongrass to distill gin.

Rothe believes that between his tasting room and the restaurant, he has enough seating for 75 to 100 people.

Rothe says he will be able produce roughly 10 times as much whiskey, bourbon gin, and vodka at the new Littleton facility. Turnbuckle's Blue Corn Bourbon is a flagship product. It is made from blue corn that was grown by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe of southwest Colorado. Turnbuckle also uses blue corn to make its other spirits, such as its rye whisky and vodka. Rothe's Spirits are available in around 75 bars, restaurants and liquor stores in the Denver region.

Rothe has successfully rezoned property for the new venue. Subject to other approvals by Jefferson County, Rothe hopes to begin construction on the property this summer. Sean Tennant, with Tennant Arkitecture, Inc., and Witkin Custom Construction, is the general contractor and designer for the project.

Rothe intends to sell the current distillery property located at 7655 W.

I've already had two or three people express interest in buying this space to use as a distillery, so that they can do the same thing I did. Rothe stated that it's an excellent place to start.

Rothe stated that the approximate cost of building the new Turnbuckle Distilling Facility is $5 million. Rothe hopes to expand the Littleton location in the future to give more artisans space to make products like cheese, bread, or coffee.

Rothe stated that the vision has always been to create an experience where people can learn, have fun and enjoy themselves.