When you think of San Diego you may think of wineries or breweries, but today, we’re talking distilleries! The distillery boom in San Diego has officially begun – thanks to new legislation that has loosened restrictions, including allowing distillers to sell products straight to consumers and an increase in the total volume distillers can produce a year. Now, new spots are popping up everywhere, and the San Diego Distillers Guild website shows nearly 20 craft distilleries as members in the county. To help you get started on this new trend, here are the top 5 San Diego distilleries right now.
Located in Mira Mesa, Malahat Spirits was one of the first new distilleries to pop up in San Diego (in 2014). The spot is named after a rum schooner that sailed the West Coast during Prohibition, and although spiced rum is what initially put them on the map, today they distill bourbon whiskey, rye whiskey, and four-grain vodka. They also feature flavored rums, like black tea and ginger, as well as one aged for over two years in cabernet barrels.
Co-founder Ken Lee says on their site that, “We want to make sure we use natural ingredients. By bringing out the real ingredients, the true ingredients, it completely changes the flavor.” We must say we agree!
In addition to being the only female-owned distillery in San Diego, You & Yours has made a serious name for itself when it comes to distilled gin. Recently opened in 2017, You & Yours produces all of their small-batch canned and bottled vodka and gin right here in San Diego’s East Village.
Tours, which are $15, provide a peek at the company’s custom build hybrid still, and of course samples of the goods, including their renowned Winter Gin (with excellent tasting notes of juniper), the floral and vanilla-note rich Y&Y Vodka, and the citrusy Sunday Gin. Tip: go for the tasters, and stay for the cocktails – their cocktail menu was brought to life with a desire to feature original creations, while also paying homage to some timeless classics; and they are all hand-crafted and seriously delicious.
Back when the distillery began in 2007 under Ballast Point, Cutwater Spirits sought to be the first distillery post-prohibition in San Diego. Today, it’s the largest distillery in the County (complete with a 50,000 square foot complex) and offers a wide variety of spirits: bourbon whiskey, single malt whiskey, moonshine, various gins, rums, vodkas, canned cocktails, and various mixers. On-site, Cutwater has a stainless-steel gin still, a copper bourbon still, two 6,000-gallon oak fermentation tanks, bottling and canning lines, and a 260-seat restaurant and bar. The distillery won 17 medals last year at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, including gold for its bottled Devil’s Share Single Malt Whiskey and Barrel Rested Old Grove Gin, as well as its canned Bloody Mary with Fugu Vodka.
The first licensed distillery in East Village and named after the oldest harbor in California (it was discovered in 1542 by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, but Juan originally called it San Miguel, which is also the name of their first release) Old Harbor Distilling Co. distills Barrelflag Navy Strength Rum, San Miguel Southwestern Gin, and Ampersand Cold Pressed Coffee Liqueur — a collaboration with Coffee & Tea Collective.
Founder Michael Skubic also has beer-brewing roots, as he was a co-founder of the Hess Brewing Company.
Established in 1851 by Matthew Henebery in Peoria, IL, the renowned Henebery Whiskey was later resurrected by owners Natalie and Jesse Fanning, who wanted to offer the consumer something completely new and different while still being extremely respectful to the process of making whiskey. The new Henebery began in a craft distillery in Los Angeles but now resides in Vista (north San Diego).
Henebery offers tours and tastings along with a variety of specialty cocktails, such as the Balboa, the PediCab, and Port Manhattans. Henebery is all organic, utilizing cardamom, citrus, and vanilla in their infusing process.
Whichever San Diego distillery you choose, there is no doubt you’ll enjoy this unique experience! For more fun tips, cocktail recipes, and ideas, visit our other blogs or check out our online store for all of your at-home liquor supply needs.