On September 7, 2022
This month, the American Distilling Institute kicks off its annual Craft Spirit Conference & Vendor Expo in St. Louis from September 14 through 16. As always, spirits industry pros and experts gather for the event and get all the info they can around craft distilling, liquor innovations, new techniques and updated equipment. The 2022 event covers all craft spirits, of course, but it has a particular focus on gin.
Authorities on gin, from gin distillers to reviewers, will pack sessions and events throughout the conference. In fact, Dr. Anne Brock, Master Distiller for Bombay Sapphire, plans to deliver a keynote Thursday morning. Then a Gin Summit will immediately follow the conference on Saturday, September 17.
In preparation for the conference, we’ve been thinking about gin non-stop. As fans of gin and woman-owned distilleries, we felt it fitting that we put together a road trip of woman-owned gin distilleries. We kept it on the west coast and highlighted six of these distilleries along the Pacific Coast Highway in California.
Check out the list below and let us know if we forgot any! Add a woman-owned distillery to the list here.
Surf City Still Works
Co-founder Elena Kornoff launched Hunting Beach, California’s first craft distillery with her husband, Josh. The two discovered craft spirits after visiting another distillery while on a road trip to the Rockies. It inspired them to start building out their own business while they both continued to work full time. In 2018, Surf City Still Works opened its doors with Elena running marketing, advertising, and all the other administrative efforts behind the scenes.
Surf City’s spirits showcase local artists, featuring their work on the labels. The distillery’s California Gin highlights artist Melissa Murphy and her depiction of a sunset over Huntington Beach. Distilled with corn, the spirit incorporates botanical flavors of citrus peel, coriander, cardamom, grains of paradise and, of course, juniper.
The tasting room at Surf City Still Works is still not open to the public. However, those who want to get a taste of California Gin may find it behind the bar of many locations in the Huntington Beach area. Use the distillery’s product finder to track a spot down.
16561 Gemini Lane, Huntington Beach, California 92647
Half Moon Bay Distillery
After eight years working behind the bar, Jamie Baddour followed her dream of owning a distillery and purchased Half Moon Bay Distillery from the original owners. A mother of four teenagers, she had nerves of steel and took on the challenge of raising the profile of the business, which opened as the first legal post-prohibition distillery in the Bay Area. Her drive already launched the brand into placements with BevMo! and Safeway.
Crafted on-site with local ingredients, the Half Moon Bay Gin features the flavors of 12 botanicals and comes in at 90 proof. Notes of citrus and spices weave into the juniper, making this a tasty spirit to sip or mix into a cocktail. The distillery suggests trying it in a French 75 or a Bees Knees to really explore the layers of complexity.
Get to know Half Moon Bay’s Gin by dropping by the distillery on the weekend. The tasting room in Half Moon Bay, California welcomes visitors between 11am and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday.
103 Harvard Avenue, Half Moon Bay, California 94019
Elk Fence Distillery
Before becoming a dynamic duo in craft spirits, Gail Coppinger and her co-founder Scott Woodson teamed up as contractors — a shingler and a painter, respectively. By the time Scott brought the idea of opening a distillery to Gail, she’d moved on and opened an organic produce stand but she was ready for something new. The two spent about five years working to open the business and build the distillery. When Elk Fence Distillery opened its doors, it was the first craft distillery in Santa Rosa.
Fir Top Botanical Gin comes out the gate with a citrus kick to it. While juniper graces the flavor profile, it blends well with all the other botanicals in the mix. Those other botanicals include coriander, tangerine and grapefruit. Combined, the ingredients deliver a well-balanced spirit that can stand on its own with a simple lemon twist.
Sample the Santa Rosa, California gin at the tasting room. It’s open from 11am to 5pm on Fridays. Those who are unable to find a Friday to stop by can also set up an appointment to explore the distillery and spirits another time.
464 Kenwood Court, Suite E, Santa Rosa, California 95407
Spirit Works Distillery
A research vessel sailing the world became the birthplace of Spirit Works Distillery when Ashby Marshall met Timo. Not only did the two fall in love but they set off on a journey that would lead them to opening a distillery in Sebastopol, California. After accepting her new husband’s family tradition of crafting sloe gin, Ashby left her career in environmental nonprofits and developed her skills and palate by visiting distilleries, learning how to craft gin and whiskey. In 2012, they opened their doors and set out to deliver high-quality spirits.
The award-winning gin begins with organic red winter wheat for a base spirit. It’s then distilled with juniper and California-grown botanicals, such as freshly zested lemon and orange and hibiscus for a flavor that balances spice, floral and citrus. On the finish, drinkers may detect notes of herbal tea with a touch of acidity.
Explore Spirit Works’ gin with a tasting at the distillery’s tasting room, open Wednesday through Sunday from 11am to 6pm and make sure you put aside 45 minutes to an hour to work through the whole tasting lineup.
6790 McKinley Street #100, Sebastopol, California 95472
A passion for food led Tara Jasper to culinary school even while she raised three young children. Culinary school inspired her to experiment with fruits and eventually crafting liqueur. And soon she delved into gin, reading a book about how the earliest form of gin used grape-based spirits. Having read that In 2018, she opened Sipsong Spirits in Windsor, California. She named the business for her inclination to follow her passion and listen to her inner wisdom.
In order to find the right combination of ingredients, Tara tasted through all the botanicals she could find, she settled on 13 that blended together with a grape spirit. The recipe allows a bit of grape sweetness to underscore the brightness of each of the botanicals. Flavors showcase Italian juniper along with coriander, angelica root, moroccan sweet orange, bay, lavender, lime, hibiscus with a pink peppercorn finish.
Try the unique gin for yourself by visiting Sipsong or a location that has the distillery’s spirits available. Visit the distillery’s website in order to find out when they have availability or where to find their spirits in stores or behind the bar.
7759 Bell Road, Windsor, California 95492
Having grown up in California, Amy Bohner arrived in Humboldt County with the intention of living “where the forest meets the ocean.” She attended Humboldt State University and spent a decade in social work before meeting her husband Steve. She joined his construction company (Alchemy Construction) but soon the two decided to follow a passion — to have a job they loved — and started the journey toward opening their own distillery: Alchemy Distillery. The two crafted their first batch of whiskey in 2017 but soon thereafter, they were also making gin.
Boldt Genever Style Gin comes from the same base as the distillery’s Boldt Clear Whiskey. The flavor lingers amidst juniper, star anise and other locally grown botanicals, including fresh redwood needle tips, that round out the unique flavor of the spirit. This is a gin that even whiskey lovers will enjoy.
In 2022, Alchemy Distillery’s new tasting room will open to the public. Unfortunately, that means it’s currently closed. Stay tuned on the distillery’s website for updates on when they’ll open back up so you can try the gin and all the distillery’s spirits.
South G Street, Arcata, California 95521