Local Dan Thompson might still be more comfortable galloping a horse than distilling agave, but that’s OK.
Dano, as he’s known, is a four-decade local who’s worked as a custom home builder and cowboy (you may have seen him in a poster with skis across his horse’s haunch riding down Lincoln Avenue with pal Billy Kidd). But now, with partner and company CEO Chris Timmerman, the one-time Marlboro Man has become known for his Dano’s Dangerous Tequila (affectionately known as Dangerous Dan’s). Peligroso!
It began when he started infusing 100% agave tequila with pineapple and jalapeño, creating an elixir that gained a quick local following here in Steamboat. Then, he and Chris went to Mexico, where they met with Hacienda de Reyes, a family-owned distillery since 1840 — the second-oldest tequila maker in the world. They fine-tuned the infusion and agreed to distribute it under the Dano’s label in the U.S.
With a sweet vanilla and pineapple entry and zesty aftertaste, its blanco, reposado and añejo has gone arriba ever since. Covered in Rolling Stone, Forbes and more, most recently it won “Best Anejo” in the world, out of 1,200 entries, in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and swept all four categories in the prestigious Consumer’s Choice SIP Awards for the third time running. It also inked a deal to become the official tequila of Carnival Cruise Lines (now there’s a reason to book a cruise).
The key: It’s hand-crafted in small batches from 8-year-old highlands blue weber agave pinas, brix-tested for sweetness, steamed in a 180-year-old traditional stone oven, and distilled two times in handcrafted copper stills. While most tequila makers use tasteless old whiskey barrels (“where all the magic is already out of the wood,” says Chris), theirs is aged in virgin American white oak barrels, bringing out its robust flavors. And every part of the process is done by hand.
Swillin’ caught up with Timmerman to talk all things tequila. Arriba!
What’s so great about basing it in Steamboat? Besides just being the best place to live on the planet, Steamboat is like a sister city to beautiful, friendly, happy, Tequila, Jalisco. It has a similar elevation, beauty and happy, joyful vibe. Also, Colorado is ranked high among tequila drinkers, which is especially true of our Steamboat residents and visitors. It’s the perfect drink when you need to get up early and hit the slopes all day.
What makes it so special? It is the hacienda’s old traditional methods, hand-crafted in small batches. We grow our own agave, roast it in the world’s oldest hornos (stone ovens), use open fermentation, distill in old handmade, copper pot stills, and age it in virgin, white American oak barrels we make and char ourselves to number four for flavor (not used whiskey barrels). It’s a great, clean buzz.
How did you end up partnering with the second-oldest tequila distillery in Mexico? On one of our trips to Tequila we happened to meet an old man on the street who told us about this young lady, Silvia Reyes, that had just inherited the second-oldest tequila distillery in the world from her great grandfather. When Dano and I met her and tasted her Blanco, that was the beginning of a great friendship. We partnered up and have rebuilt the Hacienda together, which has now grown from three to 73 employees. Silvia pays them all well, including health care benefits.
Did you ever think you’d winning the kinds of awards that you are? It was a real epiphany moment tasting Silvia’s Blanco (the young lady who inherited the hacienda from her great grandfather, making her the 4th generation) warm out of the bottle on a hot summer’s day four years ago. It was so much smoother and sweeter than every other tequila in the town of Tequila. And believe me, we tried them all. Even so, it’s been a wonderful surprise and an honor to sweep every major tasting competition in the U.S., in every category, among thousands of brands, over the last three years. And it’s certainly helped us grow distribution to our current 16 states.
How have sales been during the pandemic? The pandemic has been difficult for all of us, and the hospitality industry in particular. But people love good tequila and going out to dinner and having a bartender make them a great cocktail. Liquor store growth has been big, too, and our direct-to-consumer/direct-to-home program is evolving. So, we’ve continued to grow rapidly during the pandemic.
What’s your best seller? Our original Pineapple & Jalapeno Fresh Fruit Infusion. Dano’s has the only fresh fruit-infused tequila in the world. It’s a huge differentiator for us and our best foot in the door. Shots, on ice, cocktails, it’s all yummy. And it all started in Dano’s basement right here in Steamboat.
What’s your favorite winter drink to make with it? I love sipping neat Anejo warm out of the glass. But if I’m making a cocktail, I love a Winter Paloma. It tastes great and is good for you.
2 oz. Dano’s Blanco
2 oz. cranberry juice
1 oz. pomegranate juice
Top with soda water, garnish with a lime
Describe your perfect Steamboat day: Fishing, skiing some pow, hunting, camping, golfing and biking, if you could fit that all in, topped off with a glass of Dano’s Anejo with family and friends after any of those.
Sidebar Tequila Trivia
Certification: All tequila comes from Mexico’s Tequila region; to be called “tequila,” it must be distilled from agave plants grown there. Also, look for four-digits (a “NOM” code, Norma Oficial Mexicana) representing each distillery and assigned by the government certifying it. No NOM means not authentic.
Types: Different types have different flavors and potency.
Silver: Clear and the most popular, silver tequila is only aged for a few months, with the time to develop the color and characteristics of a longer aging process. It tastes sweeter, with a refreshing, smooth finish, and is great for mixing into margs and other apres cocktails.
Anejo: Rich,- full-bodied and caramel colored, Anejo is aged one to three years and is recommended for sipping (though it makes a great Moscow Mule or Negroni). A great choice to toast the day’s sweet turns.
Reposado: Aged anywhere from two to 11 months, Reposado has a smooth, even finish. It’s less harsh on the tongue and won’t give you as strong as a hangover for still hitting that powder day.