Village Talk

A Riverside Hideaway Marks the Spot for the Valley's Rum Stronghold

Shopping for a locally sourced rum to anchor your top shelf? Follow the river down valley to Dotsero.

By John Lehndorff November 1, 2015 Published in the Holiday 2016/2017 issue of Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine

Max vogelman  green  jim benson  blue  wings  dog  2 photo zach mahone 2 tqqfos

Distillers Max Vogelman and Jim Benson with Stoneyard’s mascot, Wings

Image: Zach Mahone

Until recently, the closest most Front Rangers ever came to Dotsero was Jazz at Jacks, a downtown Denver nightclub where a popular fusion band performs under the assumed name of the valley’s westernmost hamlet. Now Jim Benson and Max Vogelman hope to put Dotsero on Vail and Beaver Creek skiers’ maps with a triple X that hits the spot: rum.

You’d be forgiven for suspecting overuse when hearing the term “handcrafted,” but everything about the town’s new Stoneyard Distillery bears the fingerprints (and sweat equity) of the duo, who share a passion for piloting kit-built airplanes: the building, the tasting room, the distilling equipment, and the spirits produced from Colorado beet sugar and filtered water from the Eagle River, which runs through the property. 

“We are craftsmen. We did the welding,” Benson says, proudly pointing at “Twinkie,” the enormous still he and Vogelman purchased (and repurposed) from a defunct Hostess bakery in Georgia.

“This is all his fault,” Benson says with a laugh. “I asked Max what he did for fun, and he said he was distilling rum in his garage.” Vogelman’s family owned some riverfront acreage that over eight decades had been home to a saw mill and then a masonry; when the stone yard closed, the pair started making rum, amassing 10 fails before they nailed the recipe.

“Making rum sounded like a fun job, and it is definitely more fun than my last business,” Benson adds. “Spraying insulating foam is hard work.”

Since it's debut, Stoneyard’s small-batch boutique rum has been available at liquor stores, bars, and restaurants in the Vail Valley and across the state, earning raves from those who typically mix it with cola. “If you make a smooth rum, it doesn’t need to be covered up with other flavors,” Vogelman explains.

In the tasting room, which opened in August of last year, downvalley visitors can sip the rum straight while lounging among stacks of bourbon barrels filled with aging liquor. Plan your holiday visit well, and you might even be asked to help bottle a batch, accompanied by the acoustic blues of Harris & Lee, Stoneyard’s house band. Unlike the jazz at Jacks, it’s the real Dotsero deal.

Stoneyard Distillery

4600 Hwy 6, Dotsero; 970-456-1805; 

Tasting room
4 to 8 p.m., Thurs.–Sat.

Whiskey a Go Go

Want to whet your whistle with local rum and forgo the drive to a downvalley tasting room (and the potential DUI)? Good news: most area liquor outlets deliver across the region. The local favorite? While most stores charge delivery fees and require minimum orders of $75 or more, Lionshead’s Valet Wine & Spirits (970-688-5544, will spirit all brands of spirits (from 10th Mountain moonshine to Parce rum) and craft beer (from Bonfire Demshitz Brown to Crazy Mountain Lava Lake Wit) to any doorstep in the valley for a minimum purchase of $20, without markups or a delivery fee. Alas, none of the weed boutiques along the stretch of Eagle-Vail’s Highway 6 known as the “green mile” make house calls, but High Mountain Taxi ($14–$30 depending on location; 970-524-5555, will deliver you in person to Native Roots, a recreational marijuana retailer that also happens to share a wall with Vail Brewing Company, the valley’s newest (and some say finest) brewpub.

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