St. George Spirits
St. George Spirits is America’s first craft distillery. We were founded in 1982, and have been reshaping how people drink spirits ever since. We were established as an eau de vie distillery, but we now make single malt whiskey, absinthe, and several gins, vodkas, brandies, and liqueurs.
The Makers and Their Production Space
Our distillery is located in a 65,000-square-foot repurposed aircraft hangar on the former Naval Air Station in Alameda. We are owner-operated by master distiller Lance Winters and head distiller Dave Smith. Lance just celebrated his 25th anniversary at St. George Spirits, and Dave has been with us for 16 years. Lance and Dave work closely with a small but mighty team of artisans to make our spirits.
The Making Process
To make our spirits, we carefully select the most expressive raw materials we can find, then ferment and/or infuse them, and distill them on custom-made Arnold Holstein copper pot stills. We have two laboratory stills (10 liters and 30 liters) for R&D. We also have five production stills: two 250-liter stills, a 500-liter still, and two 1,500-liter stills.
While some of our spirits like our gins, vodkas, absinthe, and liqueurs are un-aged, we also make several barrel-aged spirits, such as whiskey and apple brandy. We currently have more than 1,000 barrels in our inventory, including former sherry casks, port casks, and French and American oak—and whiskey that was distilled more than two decades ago that is still in barrel.
The Production Model
Our production model is based on traditional distillation methodologies and hands-on training. Since there are very few formal distillation schools or programs, we bring on new production team members as apprentices, and work with them closely to teach them the art and craft of distillation through hands-on experience. The process for distilling everything that we make is guided by organoleptic assessment—which means that we smell and taste everything as it comes off the still rather than relying on numerical specifications.
We make more than 20 different spirits, some of which contain more than 20 ingredients. To make our spirits, we source raw materials from a variety of sources, with the goal of finding the best possible ingredients we can in order to create flavor and aroma profiles that say what we want to say. Our citrus fruit comes from a family farm in the Central Valley that we have worked with for more than 20 years. We source jalapeño peppers and ume fruit from family farms in Yolo County, and the apples we use in our apple brandy come from a family-owned orchard in Mendocino County. Master distiller Lance Winters locally wild-forages the California bay laurel we use in our Terroir Gin, and the Douglas fir we use in Terroir comes from forests in Mendocino, where it is harvested seasonally to help with fire abatement. The pears we use in our flagship pear brandy come from Colorado, where they are dry-farmed organically.
Photos: Alex Zyuzikov