Susan and I took a 'class trip' to visit the American Craft Whiskey Distillery in Redwood Valley today, as we continue to explore and learn more for our Amaro Bilaro project. ACWD is part of the Craft Distillers group, and shares a facility with benchmark California brandy producer, Germain-Robin. We were met by Crispin Cain, head distiller/owner of ACWD. Crispin has a long history in distilling, starting in 1989 as assistant to Hubert Germain-Robin, after spending a number of years working in wine production. He now focuses his skills on vodka, gin, whiskey, and a couple of great specialty products, absinthe and rose liqueur (more on the rose liqueur later).
We started out by checking out the Charentais pot still that ACWD shares with Germain-Robin, an antique 16 hectoliter Cognac still. The facility contains many stills, both pot and column variety. With changes in minimum volume for stills in Cognac, they have acquired a number of "new" pot stills recently.
But on to the fun stuff. Crispin poured some of his Low Gap 2-year old Rye for us to taste. Made from 100% rye malt extract - no barley, wheat or corn in this beauty. A touch of fruitiness on the nose, but on the palate it is rich, smooth and full bodied. Aged 2+ years in a mix of new and used American oak (sourced in Minnesota). Seek it out, you will be rewarded.
We later moved on to one of the 4 different gins Crispin makes, all done in the London dry style. What he poured for us was his Russell Henry Dark Gin, which is rested in barrel for 1 year, in a blend of French (Limousin) and American (Missouri) oak. The spirit maintains the delicate botanicals on the nose, with a rich roundness in the mouth. I usually prefer the purer, cleaner expression of spirits not finished in barrel (blanco tequila over anejo or reposada, for instance), but the Dark Gin is amazing. Beautifully nuanced. Love it.
Crispin produced the second commercially available absinthe in the United States, but it is his Rose liqueur that stands out in the lineup. Unfortunately, it is currently sold out and we couldn't sample it today, but I have tasted it before, and it is truly special. After years of experimenting with over 103 different roses and various alcohol bases, Crispin settled on 17 roses, both old varieties and hybrids, macerated in a base spirit made from apples and honey for 7 to 10 days. The roses are harvested in spring, only in the morning while the plants are transpiring, looking to obtain maximum flavor from the petals. Crispin has figured out that it takes over 108 pounds of rose petals to produce just 100 six-packs of 375 ml. bottles. Delicious on its own, the Rose liqueur adds different and unique flavors to cocktails.
Thanks to Crispin Cain at American Craft Whiskey Distillery for making the time to meet and taste with us today. Very educational, and tasty, too!