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Santa Fe Spirits receives 94 out of 100 in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2015 for whiskey

Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey, which is made in small batches by Santa Fe Spirits, earned 94 points at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge this year. (Courtesy of Santa Fe Spirits)

Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey, which is made in small batches by Santa Fe Spirits, earned 94 points at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge this year. (Courtesy of Santa Fe Spirits)

SANTA FE, N.M. — When most people think whiskey, they don’t think of the Southwestern United States. But a recent notable recognition for a Santa Fe whiskey might change that.

Santa Fe Spirits, which is the only distillery in Santa Fe, recently received 94 out of 100 points in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2015 for its Colkegan Single Malt Whiskey.

This is the first time Santa Fe Spirits has entered Colkegan into the competition. Colkegan went into barrels in 2011 and the first release of the product was in late 2013, according to Santa Fe Spirits Head Distiller Johnny Jeffery.

“It’s really exciting to be recognized in that category,” Jeffery said. “It’s the second highest scoring in the American whiskey category. To have recognition in a national forum where spirit connoisseurs go to see what they should be drinking is exciting.”

Spirits are entered into the competition from around the world. Products receive a score from 95-100 (extraordinary, ultimate recommendation) to 80-84 good (recommended). Colkegan received a score of 94, which makes it “excellent, highly recommended,” according to competition results.

“The smoke is obvious, but it’s a sweeter and meatier smoke than one gets from peated whiskies,” competition tasting notes describe Colkegan. “The spirit shines through a bit more in the mouth, then the smoke comes back and finally the nicely astringent finish cleans the palate for the next sip.”

The Ultimate Spirits Challenge judges come from various backgrounds that directly deal with spirits and include seasoned mixologists, bartenders, journalists, educators, buyers and consultants. There were 17 judges for the spirits categories and subcategories, which include American Whiskey, Bourbon, Brandy, Liqueur, Rum, Scotch Whisky, Tequila, Vermouth and more. Tasting notes, product images and cocktail recommendations also are available online at

Santa Fe Spirits offers more than whiskey. Soon it plans to release its Atapino liqueur in June. Atapino is a piƱon and Ponderosa blend in a whiskey-base liqueur.

In July or August, it intends to release smoked gin, which is smoked in hickory wood, according to Jeffery. It currently offers an Apple Brandy, handmade from local apples, as well as its Wheeler’s Western Dry Gin, which is made with cholla cactus blossoms, juniper, desert sage, osha root and local hops sourced at the distillery.

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