Craft of 'grain to glass': Sonoma Distilling wins Wine, Beer + Spirits Industry Awards
An early player in the U.S. craft spirits business, Sonoma Distilling Company is a year into a rebranding and adjustment to bottle prices and is preparing to open a new facility early next year that would greatly increase current production.
Coming from a career in finance on the East Coast and San Francisco, Adam Spiegel at age 26 started the whiskey-only distillery in 2010 with a 125-gallon Portuguese pot still that was operating in 784 square feet of space. That expanded to four 250-gallon copper alembic pot stills in 6,000 square feet in Rohnert Park. A 21,000-square-foot distillery is expected to be completed by April.
The existing stills are operated five to six days a week, producing about 20,000 gallons annually. A 3,000-gallon pot still, which has been in the fabrication queue at Forsyths of Scotland for two years, is bound for the new facility. Even a fraction of that device’s throughput plus the existing stills would double or triple annual production in the next two to three years, Spiegel said. That would give Sonoma Distilling capacity for anticipated sales growth for five to 10 years.
“Whiskey is a long game, no matter which way you look at it,” said Spiegel, now 34.
Sonoma Distilling makes two whiskeys year-round - rye and bourbon - retailing for $40 per 750-milliliter bottle. In the fall, a Distiller’s Edition with California cherrywood smoke in the mix is released for $50 in the same-sized bottle.
“It’s priced at a level friends and family can buy it, but it is made from scratch,” Spiegel said. “We have adjusted prices in the last four to five years to allow us to be special and drink it neat or put it in a cocktail.”
Some distilleries that buy aged whiskey from Canada or Kentucky to blend for a product, but Sonoma Distilling takes the grain-to-glass approach, using non-GMO raw materials, locally smoked malted barley and various-sized oak barrels for aging two to seven years. As time goes on, the company may consider longer-aged releases, Spiegel said.