Spirit Works Distillery
California’s Sonoma County may be synonymous with wine, but this female-powered distillery is making a strong case for the region’s whiskey—and it is truly regional. Last December, co-founder Marshall released her terrific Straight Wheat Whiskey, made with organic red winter wheat from the Sacramento Valley. Distilling from local grain is both time-consuming and labor-intensive (most start-up whiskey brands purchase their base spirits in bulk from industrial producers), but this “grain-to-glass” method suits Marshall’s focus on non-GMO, organic, sustainable and local ingredients and suppliers. “The hands-on approach doesn't necessarily make more economic sense, but it’s important to us,” she says. “We’re here for every step—testing the pH levels during fermentation, testing the brix [sugar content] of the mash, making the cuts during distillation—and we wouldn't have it any other way.” This setup also allows for experimentation including using ancient grains such as emmer and amaranth to make spirits and finishing rye whiskey in sloe gin barrels.