The St. George Spirits teams produce three different Gins, each with a very different flavor profiles. When developing their recipes, they realized they needed to make three very different products to fully express their love for the Spirit!
St. George's Terroir Gin is arguably the most well-known of the three, and is made with three local botanicals (and a load more traditional ones) as an ode to the Golden State, including Douglas fir, Californian bay laurel and coastal sage.
The distillation process is three-fold, too; fir and sage are distilled individually in a smaller still to account for regional variation and minimize the impact, the fresh bay laurel leaves and juniper berries are vapor infused, and the remaining botanicals are macerated in the bottom of the 1,500l still.
Both distillates are then blended together to create Terroir Gin, a Spirit which is, as its name suggests, truly inspired by the woods.
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St. George Spirits
Lance Winters, Master Distiller at St. George Spirits, got his job by turning up with a bottle of home-made Whiskey as his CV.
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The St. Georges Spirits company has a long old history – at 33 years, it’s one of the oldest craft distilleries in the United States. In 1982, the company was founded by a German man called Jorg Rupf, who had moved to the Bay Area from the Black Forest.
Inspired by the local fruits, added to his passion and knowledge of distilling from back home, Jorg began distilling an Eau de Vie. Back then, St. George Spirits was a one man band with only one product.
Fast-forward to current day, and the company has a new Master Distiller, Lance Winters, a former Naval Engineer who’s been with the company for over 20 years.
It’d be an understatement to say the St. George Spirits distillery is big; it sits in a 65,000 square foot aeroplane hangar – formerly the Alameda Air Station – in California, and is full of equipment.
The distillery has a huge number of different stills, and today make three differentGins, Vodkas, Absinthe(the first US distillery to produce it following the ban in 1912), Whiskies, Rum and more.
Address2601 Monarch Street, Alameda, CA 94501, USA
A transcript for non-audio situations
Matt: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Big Red Show. I'm Matt and I'm very excited because I'm here with Lance Winters who is the owner, the master distiller, the raconteur of...
Lance: The weirdo.
Matt: The weirdo of the Saint George Distillery here in Alameda, California. And talk to us a little bit about the history of this place. I know for the craft, which is fairly recent, this place is actually pretty old, but still doing craft, right?
Lance: So our history is that we were started in 1982 by Jorg Rupf, often thought of as the Godfather of the artisan distillation movement in this country. He came here with the ministry and the culture of Germany in the late '70s. His goal was to study law at Berkeley, but he fell in love with the produce that was available here. And now we find ourselves applying that same philosophy to everything that we do. We are very, very careful and thorough with our sourcing of raw materials for any of the things that we make.
Matt: You've got this great lineup of fruit Gins, but let's talk a little bit about this new project that you've got, which is an Agricole Rum.
Lance: I had played around with Rum for a number of years, and I was playing around with it from a very typical, traditional standpoint of starting with molasses, bringing that down in strength with water, doing a fermentation of that molasses and then distilling it, and it never really sat the right way with me. It just seemed sort of boring and innocuous. It was clean, it was drinkable, and you could pass it off as a Rum, but it didn't have enough going on. So I took a step back and thought about our philosophies of distillers and as a noted distiller, what approach would you take to making a Rum? You have to start with the raw material at its most basic state. For this, it's bringing in fresh sugar cane. When that sugar cane is crushed, the smell that fills the air is this great, grassy, intense aroma. By the time it's done fermenting and you start running it through the still, you get that grassiness coming through and so what we get is a very earthy style of rum.
Matt: All right, so let's talk about your Terroir Gin and talk a little bit about the inspiration for this.
Lance: This one definitely did come from a place of inspiration. Initially, it wasn't going to be a Gin. It was really just a distillate of a place. My son Franklin has been going to summer day camps for years, and one afternoon when I was picking him up, the smell of this camp just completely overwhelmed me. It was pine, it was bay laurel, it was forest floor mulch, it was the sun baking the dirt. All these great smells and I thought I would love to distil that. So, we went out and started wild foraging for Douglas Fir, California Bay Laurel, Coastal Sage, wild fennel, distilling those and then distilling those with juniper and trying and figure out what of the other traditional Gin botanicals would help support that idea of Terroir.
Matt: Thank you for hosting us today and...
Lance: Thank you for being here.
Matt: ...on the Big Red Liquors side of things, we certainly look forward to carrying all your Gins, obviously, but then also some special Whiskey projects maybe here in a little bit. So, cheers.