Cockpit Craft Distillery

Jay Billups

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If you‘ve ever served in the military, you are all too familiar with the phrase, “Attention to detail!” Or maybe, if you’re like me and had parents like mine, you heard, “Do it right, do it once!” Now combine that with a quest for quality, a passion for a unique process and product and you’ll well describe Calder Curtis, head distiller and owner of Cockpit Craft Distillery.

Calder is a U.S. Air Force veteran (aircraft maintainer, machinist, welder and metal fabricator). He was halfway through his mechanical engineering degree when took a hard look at the career field and realized it wasn’t the right direction for him. Calder has many interests and has gone through many hobbies. Out of all of them, gold prospecting and distilling stuck. While panning for gold is a great family activity, it’s not the best bet for earning a steady income. His attention turned toward craft spirits.

Initially, he started brewing beer. Fun at first, but it just wasn’t as interesting as he had hoped. It seemed that everything had already been done and he didn’t feel he could be creative – nothing for him to get excited about.

A conversation with friends about what makes a good whiskey and a good rum (emphasis mine, if you know me, you know why) led to creating a home still. The research and experimenting began! Some of the results were amazing and some just plain bad. At the time, craft distilling was in its infancy, there was plenty of space to grow and tremendous room create something truly unique. Like an artist finding a new technique or method of expression, Calder’s period of discovery had begun and he was now on a solid path to craft distillery.

If you’ve had vodka, rum, whiskey or any other hard liquor, you’ve probably not found much new or anything to get excited about. Here lies the big difference between craft distilling and the drinking industry. Industry alcohol is bland by comparison. Calder’s craft distilling is creativity led by passion and enthusiasm.

Calder decided that he wanted to really show his own style and flair in his product. Unlike industry brands, he has the flexibility and freedom to experiment with small batches. He can produce for smaller niche markets. If a flavor doesn’t catch on he can go back to the drawing board without going under. Large companies, who produce millions of bottles at a time, simply can’t afford the risk.

Another important factor that separates Cockpit Craft Distillery from the pack is their use of unique, high quality ingredients. For example, their whiskey contains six different grains (while others have 2-3 max): rye from Germany, caramel malt from England, chocolate malt from Belgium, brewer’s corn, and domestic red wheat. Calder, emphasizes that they are in the craft market and what they can bring to the table are those unique, weird combinations that lead to discovering something great. Using primo ingredients, the best equipment and processing all the way down the line produces results, that even on their worst day, can top everything else.

Still learning and still experimenting, Calder instinctively knows what’s good and what’s not and he has a distinct sense for what people like. As Calder says, “Use the best at every step and your results will be amazing.” jb

4893 Galley Road
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80915

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