Eleven California Distillers at the Forefront of the Brandy Boom

The St. George Spirits distillery in Alameda.

The St. George Spirits distillery in Alameda.


America’s getting fruity. 

Written by Camper English


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E.&J. Gallo
The wine-and-spirits giant now produces three brandy lines: the column-distilled, bargain-price E&J brandy; the pot-distilled Germain-Robin; and the new Argonaut line, whose four iterations vary in composition. Prices range from the $38 Speculator to $200 for the Claim (try the rich-bodied $50 Fat Thumb first), and there is even a higher-proof Saloon Strength version sold only to bars for cocktail use.

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Falcon Spirits
Former biochemist Farid Dormishian makes a range of spirits with a blended base of grain, sugar cane, and/or grapes. His Botanica Spiritvs Barrel-Finished Gin and Peregrine Immature Brandy are both 100 percent grape-based, while his own amaro and Fernet Francisco (made under contract) have a base of grape and grain.

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The Family Coppola
Great Women Spirits is a newish line of spirits named for historical women and includes a gin, a vodka, and Agnesi 1799, a five-year-old grape brandy that’s bottled with Napa water.

Frisco Brandy
San Francisco
This California-fied version of Peruvian or Chilean pisco begins with purchased muscat wine that is distilled at the Seven Stills Brewery & Distillery facility, then rested for two months in stainless steel tanks before filtering and bottling.

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Greenway Distillers
Redwood Valley
Crispin Cain rents time on the former Germain-Robin stills to make Low Gap whiskey and Russell Henry gin, but also an unaged apple-honey brandy that’s used as the base of the exquisite Crispin’s Rose liqueur and Absinthe Superieure.

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Marian Farms
Marian Farms produces biodynamic almonds, citrus, and spirits, including both aged and unaged grape brandies as well as its Farmhouse curaçao, which is distilled from homegrown grapes and oranges. Keep an eye out for the farm’s forthcoming brandy-based almond liqueur and barrel-aged curaçao this summer. The farm also redistills grape spirits with fresh Oregon wormwood to make absinthe for Oakland-based Absinthia’s Bottled Spirits. 

Oakland Spirits Co.
All the products made in this Uptown distillery begin with a high-proof grape spirit purchased from a rectifier in the Central Valley. This base gets redistilled with botanicals such as the foraged nori used to make the Automatic Sea-Gin—an instant hit with local bartenders. The demand for two of the distillery’s seasonal Glasshouse brandies—a shiso flavor and a flavor that combines garam masala, cilantro, and Assam tea—was so high that they’re now in permanent production. 

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This respected distillery in the Santa Cruz region produces aged apple brandy made from more than a dozen varieties of apples and a series of grape brandies of different ages, each one distilled and blended from multiple California grape varietals.

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Raff Distillerie
Treasure Island
Both Bummer & Lazarus gin and Emperor Norton absinthe start with a purchased California grape spirit that gets redistilled with botanicals in Carter Raff’s hand-built stills, which are housed in a former navy brig. Arkansas Black (a separate company) also uses the site to store its applejack, the newer releases of which begin with a French-distilled apple brandy that’s shipped to Treasure Island and aged in barrels outdoors. 

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St. George Spirits
In addition to its flagship pear and raspberry brandies and liqueurs and its newer aged apple brandy, St. George manages to sneak brandy into other spirits: The distillery uses grape brandy as a base for its absinthe and even adds a splash of pear brandy to its unflavored vodka to give it body. 

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Esteban Montes