As part of our series on brewing in Colorado, we continue by exploring women in craft distilling. KGNU’s Fiona Foster reports on an all woman owned distillery in Denver.
Tucked away in the mostly industrial area off of I-25 is Rising Sun Distillery whose vibrant atmosphere and bright, yellow and turquoise walls are a strong contrast to the deserted treeless streets and colorless buildings outside. Above the bar at the entrance is a quote: “Life is too short not to drink well.”
While the Rising Sun is women owned and has a woman as the head distiller, it doesn’t cater specifically to women. But distiller Kim Cavalero says they are able to be more playful and experiment with fruity and floral tastes that might be considered more feminine.
“I think a lot of women drink hard liquor, they drink spirit and it isn’t like beer where it is dominated by men, and a lot of women really gravitate towards the spirits and so we can play into what female taste pallets.”
Along with organic vodka and gin, Rising Sun brews spirits with a Colorado flavors like peach brandy, chili liqueur and the soon-to-be-released lavender liqueur.
Co-Owner Dawn Richardson wants a different taste reflected in her décor as well, something fun and down-to-earth, and so the walls are painted with bright colors.
“I didn’t want corrugated and barn wood like every other brewery and distillery in town, I didn’t want to immaculate men but I wanted women to feel like hey this is comfortable and as a result maybe 60% or more of our clients are women.”
Distiller Kim realizes that she is a minority in this industry, but her only concern about breaking in was having somebody believe that she was physically capable of doing the job.
“Day to day, moving heavy hoses around, dealing with hot steam, a lot of job requirements say must be able to lift fifty pounds but I actually do on a daily basis lift fifty pounds or more several times. I don’t look like I’m capable of doing these things, that was my only concern about breaking into this industry was convincing them that I can do it and getting someone to give me a shot.”
So far, she’s had only supportive responses.
“It is mostly surprise, I haven’t had anybody really doubt me. People don’t expect me to be the distiller so they don’t necessarily ask, but when they do find out I’m pleasantly surprised by how excited people are.”
And Kim’s experience raises the question many women of her generation have, to proudly label yourself as a woman or to just get on with the job. And while Kim is happy to be a distiller, Dawn feels that there are still a lot of glass ceilings to be broken.
“It seems like a lot of younger women don’t see gender as an inhibitor, they just want to be known as a distiller, they just want to be known as a welder or whatever that happens to be. I’m of a generation where I saw my mother fighting for the ERA, and so I’m more of a bridge generation where I still feel like those glass ceilings need to be broken and we need to be out in front of other young women showing them it can be done so that it becomes commonplace”
Whether or not Rising Sun is breaking glass ceilings, they certainty lend their own flavour to craft distilling.