Back in 2012 when Timo and I first opened up our vodka, gin, sloe gin and whiskey distillery there weren’t a lot of options for where to source our grain from. Luckily for us the sources available were organic, which was our first priority. Second in importance to us was that the grain is grown hyper-locally. We’ve always had an amazing local source for our Red Winter Wheat but had to source our organic Rye from outside California at times.
Well, my friends, times are changing and with growth in the demand for local, organic, sustainable grains some farmers locally are getting in on the action.
One of those amazing farmers is Mai Nguyen. I first met Mai through a coalition of farmers, brewers, and distillers called the Heritage Grain Alliance whose mission was to provide farmers, millers, bakers, brewers, and distillers in the North Coast region with the infrastructure, education, and support needed to build a local small grain economy. We were a hodgepodge of very passionate folks from the brewing, distilling and farming communities, but Mai really stood out to me as a mover and shaker. They are a badass activist whose work focuses on pushing our society to value farmers of color who are integral to nourishing our communities with culturally-relevant food and sustaining biodiversity that benefits all. Coming from my environmental background – this was music to my ears.
Over the years Mai and I have kept in touch on life and grain and I’ve watched their dreams literally grow – I suspect they’d say that they watched my dreams of creating the best distillery in California grow too! Together we dreamed of one day me being able to make a vodka or whiskey from organic grains that Mai could grow for us locally.
All of this culminated in a call at the end of 2020 with Mai calling me to say – “Ashby, I’ve done it! I’ve got 5,000 lbs of Sebastopol and Petaluma organically-grown Gazelle Rye being harvested in the next few weeks. Do you want it??”
Yes, yes, yes.
Our production team all met together and decided we would do a couple of cool things with the grain you have to look forward to. The first whiskey we made with this local rye was a 95/5 mash bill of rye and barley. This is an interesting whiskey to produce in that is common in the larger whiskey houses that generally sell it for blending purposes. We wanted to create this 95/5 to really showcase the incredible flavors of this grain. We also then researched some incredible locally malted barley from Admiral Maltings in Alameda. Settling on their Maiden Voyage and Admiral’s Hearth we’ve now made our newly minted ‘Sailors Rye’. While we can’t wait to share these incredible craft whiskies with you – you’re going to have to wait. Just like us.
We will reach out again 4-5 years from now, once the whiskey has rested in full size new American charred barrels, to let you know these first batches are ready, and in the meantime, we look forward to more incredible projects in the future with Mai and her delicious grain.
This pandemic is really dragging on eh?
While we really miss having you in our tasting room and giving tours, we want to make sure our community stays as healthy as possible in these trying times. With that in mind, we have expanded our services to include socially distanced options, so you can still enjoy the taste of our handcrafted spirits from the safety of your home. Spirit Works Distillery now offers delivery straight to your door, as well as pick-up from our tasting room window. We’ve also been offering virtual tasting events each month. Whether you are in search of a whiskey distillery, vodka distillery, gin distillery, or any type of spirits manufacturer in California, Spirit Works is sure to please. Stay home, stay safe, support craft, and buy local. Order online today!