Distillery 101 - What Made Us Stand Out?

July 24, 2020

What does it mean to win Distillery of the Year?

Well, I can tell you that it really means so much to us. It definitely means we’re totally overwhelmed by the recognition and don’t really know what to say about it!

Timo and I are different for sure, but we’re also very similar. We both dream big, are highly passionate, and must work in something we believe in. This is likely how we both ended up on an environmental research vessel in the Netherlands where we met. This is also likely how we had the guts enough to eventually leave our non-profit environmental jobs and made the moves to start a craft distillery. But, of course, we couldn’t just start any craft distillery – it had to represent our personal passions and philosophies.

The name – Back in 2010 Timo and I sat in a classic old dive bar on Potrero Hill in SF called Blooms Saloon and brainstormed on a napkin – I kid you not. We were aiming for a name that would convey the very hands on approach we would be taking. We quickly learned that Spirit Works was the name for distilleries back in the day, like Iron Works, Steel Works etc and knew we had to name ourselves Spirit Works Distillery.

Grain to glass – It was essential to us that we created our spirits from scratch using whole organic grains. While it may make more business sense to purchase alcohol and manipulate that into your spirit – our environmental backgrounds and passion for being involved in the process directed our grain to glass mandate.

Foster community – None of us can do this thing called life alone and building community in both the industry and locally were utmost priorities for us. On average we donate to over 150 local non-profits annually ranging from social justice organizations to LGBTQ advocacy and environmental activist groups. We are also active members of multiple national distillery guilds and Timo was as President of California Distiller’s Guild in 2016 when they lead the charge for legislation to allow distilleries to sell bottles to the public from their tasting rooms. Finally, we have built an amazing Spirits Club full of enthusiastic supporters providing us all a mutually beneficial outlet for our most creative projects!

High-quality spirits – We’ve already talked about grain to glass, but what else goes into making the best quality spirits you can find? Well, we have always promised a few things – we always aim for quality of over quantity in our fermentations and distillation cuts, we always age whiskey in full size charred oak barrels for a minimum of four years, we always use organic grains and we continually make interesting, delicious, and unique spirits like our Sloe Gin, Barrel Gin, Bitter Sloe, and recently a California grown corn Four Grain Bourbon!

Team Building – If you’ve ever been to visit our distillery, you’ll agree that we really do have the most amazing team here. To nurture our staff appropriately we maintain a super communicative and safe environment and support diversity and inclusion at all times. Our production team are quality control fanatics, our tasting room staff is detail-obsessed, and our sales and marketing team are highly passionate and strategic – and we love them all.

We’re totally honored and blown away that our industry has taken notice of our little distillery here in Sebastopol California and if you haven’t been to see us yet – once this insane pandemic is under control – please come in for a cocktail, tour, and to get to know us. That’s our favorite part!


4 year whiskey, Best Distillery, Distillery of the Year, donations, Grain to Glass, Sloe Gin