30 Nov 7×7 – Meet the Team of Women Distillers Making Whiskey in Sonoma
Spirit Works, Sonoma’s grain-to-glass distillery known for their classic gins and vodka, has officially added whiskey to its repertoire.
Head distiller Ashby Marshall and her all-female team of spirit connoisseurs have had their eye on whiskey since the distillery was founded in 2012. Their first batch, out on December 1st, has been aging for over two years.
“It’s been so long,” said distiller Lauren Patz. “It was magical when we were finally able to bring it out.”
Their inaugural straight rye whiskey, aged in American White Oak barrels, is filled with complex flavors: hints of baked apples, aromatic spices, and a slightly sweet finish that makes it an instant classic for the holiday season.
Also out this week is a 100-percent Straight Wheat Whiskey made from 100% California grown, organic, Hard Red Winter Wheat (the same wheat that goes into their signature gins and vodka bottles).
“We knew what wheat had to offer—caramel, vanilla, and butterscotch flavors,” said Patz. “But there’s not a lot of 100-percent wheat whiskeys out there.”
Both bottles will be available for purchase starting Tuesday, but if you’re in the mood for a day trip, you can already try a sip of the whiskeys in the distillery’s tasting room in Sebastopol.
Spirit Works is one of only a few distilleries with an all-female production team. Hiring all women was never intentional, but production associate Nikki Lucas says she thinks it really makes a difference.
Lucas’ favorite part about working at Spirit Works is being surrounded by people who are passionate about learning and experimenting. The distillery is littered with their monthly projects: spirits aging in different types of barrels, a whiskey made out of a special hybrid grain grown in Healdsburg, a handmade chandelier in the shape of an ethanol molecule with juniper-filled crystal orbs for carbon atoms. From the entrance, you can hear music playing, part of an experiment in which the discographies of different artists are being pumped into different barrels of whiskey. One whiskey blend is listening to Bay Area locals Devil Makes Three, another to The Nutcracker performed by the SF Symphony, still others are tuning in to Santigold, Daft Punk, and Led Zeppelin.
“The idea is that the sound vibrations will allow the whiskey more inhalation and exhalation from the wood,” said Patz. “We were tasting these two Devil Make Three barrels, and instantly you could smell the difference. The waft was so different in terms of aromatics.”
Adventurous tasters will be able to experience the fruits of some of these side projects in Spirit Work’s tasting room in 2016.