Water of Life in the Tree Lined Avenue

Ilegirl, her husband, and I went out to visit the distillery whose whiskey’s name ignores centuries of less than friendly relationships between England and Scotland. The distillery is in on the decommissioned Naval Air base in Alameda. Their building is an old aircraft hanger, which lends its name to their vodkas: Hanger One.

We went for a tasting, a $10 exploration of assorted spirits and a tour of the distillery. I was interested in trying their single malt whiskey.

FeaJump2Hanger

I admit that I thought of Vodka as a flavourless clear alcohol that was either thrown down the throat neat and frozen or used as the base of a cocktail. After sampling their infused vodkas; drinks full of fruit and delicate hints that can be sipped, I stand corrected. These are not vodkas to which a flavour has been added after distillation. Natural ingredients are added to the distillate, left to seep and then distillation is repeated. They describe it as infusing. None of the five vodkas were less than fascinating, but the Mandarin Blossom was heavenly. I want to try that with a splash of Triple Sec and Cranberry Juice for a stunning Cosmopolitan.  They also do a White Tea liqueur, which with the orange flavours tastes like a less sweet version of Cointreau.

The Whiskey was better than I expected, especially given its short eight years of life so far removed from its spiritual home. It is not an Islay peat monster, but has a reasonably complex flavour. After the server saw me splash some water and smell it again, she added an additional whiskey to the tasting; a younger, rougher version. Given the improvement between this five year old and the first one, I hope that if they can keep some back in casks for a decade they might have a whiskey I would be happy to drink. As things stand, it is palatable, but for the price I would buy Scotch. They use a mix of new French Oak casks and Bourbon casks. I did note that the Bourbon ones were from the distillery that I use for my mixing Bourbon.

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The tour was an informative and amusing event. The presenter had an obvious passion for the drink that they made. He said their goal was to make stuff that they could drink and sell the rest. The stills were stunningly beautiful. They use old-fashioned pot-stills and make just 25,000 cases of booze in a year; Smirnoff make 1,500,000 each month. Their bottling machine is old and no longer supported by the manufacturer. They used to rely on the company in the next door facility to make replacement parts. Their neighbour made aquatic models for movies like “Deep Blue” and “Anaconda” in between keeping the bottling line running.

From outside the hanger there is a great view of The Bay Bridge and downtown San Francisco.

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The sampling list was as follows:

Aqua Perfecta Pear Eau de Vie
Aqua Perfecta Framboise Eau de Vie
Hanger One Straight Vodka
Hangar One Buddha’s Hand Citron Vodka
Hangar One Mandarin Blossom Vodka
Hanger One Kaffir Lime Vodka
St George Single Malt Whiskey
Hanger One Chipotle Vodka
Qi White Tea Liqueur
Qi Black Tea Liqueur
Aqua Perfecta Pear Liqueur
Aqua Perfecta Framboise Liqueur

A couple of other points of note, the straight Vodka would not count as such in Europe as it is distilled from grapes which EU regulations would prevent from being called vodka.

The whiskey gets its name from the distillery, which is St George Distillery. The distillery gets its name from its founder, a German called Jorge. Thus we are left with the oddity of a Scottish style Whiskey with an English name made in the US by a German.

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Published in: on 31 May, 2009 at 7:16  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Maybe the unlikely location, and unusual products explains some of the goings-on at that other airbase, Area 51?

  2. @mmonyte, that’s top secret. You must visit the US to see for yourself.

    The tasting and tour were great fun. The evening after I purchased the Mandarin Blossom Vodka, and it’s an absolute delight. I have used it in cosmopolitans, but more frequently enjoy sipping from one of my pretty little sake glasses.


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