photos by Stephanie Cameron
Colin Keegan moved to Santa Fe in 1992 with his wife Suzette and daughter Phoebe, and spent fifteen years here practicing architecture. When the economy took a downturn, he decided to turn his distilling hobby into a business, and in 2010 opened Santa Fe Spirits (SFS). The company has grown into an operation boasting seven spirits in nine states, with three other export markets, and eleven employees. SFS has quadrupled its facility size and opened a second tasting room in downtown Santa Fe.
What do you love most about local food?
I love getting to meet the people who make it happen, who actually grow, produce, or make the food. The enthusiasm, dedication, and passion are all part of what they produce, and here in the Southwest, we are so blessed to have so many wonderful flavors.
Tell us about your life outside of Santa Fe Spirits.
I also am involved in the local Chamber of Commerce. I enjoy working the acequias and our apple orchard, in season, and living in rural New Mexico, in general.
What’s your favorite way to spend a day off?
I enjoy mornings mountain biking in the spring and summer, and skiing in the winter. If I can get a few days together, my wife and I really enjoy traveling to as many states as we can.
Do you have a serendipitous moment?
Struggling in architecture, I took a job as the project architect in a huge industrial plant at the southern end of New Mexico. Once asked to apply for a promotion, I realized that industrial work was not for me; I wanted to get back to Santa Fe and work with a passionate, dedicated group rather than paycheck collectors!
How did you get to where you are now? What’s the backstory, and what was the moment that brought you to your current work?
On realizing that architecture was not going to fulfill me creatively or financially, I had to make some serious decisions. My wife and I decided that rather than chase professions in other places, we wanted to stay in Santa Fe, and as we lived in the apple orchard, we decided to give our distilling hobby a go in a bigger way.
I realized that a small business making handcrafted artisanal spirits would challenge me in many ways, and let me learn and grow myself. I still view SFS as a series of projects: building the facility, coming up with a line of products, building an awesome team, growing distribution, building an expansion, etc. Wow, it is certainly a challenge, and I learn every day!
What makes you laugh?
English humor—they have such a skewed version of reality sometimes. Human situational comedy does make me laugh.
What gets you fired up?
When big business and governments crush the wonderful spirit of small entrepreneurs by putting money ahead of creativity. And local politicians who say they want to promote business, but are really just in their positions to collect a paycheck.
Fill in the Blank:
The question people always ask me is where are you from? But I wish they’d ask me, what do you enjoy most about the Southwest?
If I had the chance, I would have lunch with the leading distributors in the country at Vinaigrette. I’d like to ask them what do they really expect from small growing brands like SFS?
If I weren’t doing what I’m doing now, I’d be following my other passion, which is climbing big peaks around the world, probably learning to ski better, and more esoteric sports.
Most people are surprised to learn that I was an architect and did not come from the spirits business.
What’s new at Santa Fe Spirits?
We are building an expansion, we have a great single barrel release program going for the fall, and we are looking for an Albuquerque tasting room location.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with edible readers?
We are excited about what we do, and edible is a great way for us to share that enthusiasm.