There's Gin That Tastes Like California
Ventura Spirits produces liquor that personified their Californian roots. And, yes, that includes a gin that smells like a hike up the Chaparral trails.
The small batch liquor produced out of Central California is not only unique to the flavors and aromas of the region, but also sustainable. What made them popular is their strawberry vodka which is distilled using “ugly” strawberries that are still highly edible yet unsellable because of dark spots and bumps. Instead of ending up in the trash, Ventura Spirits distill them to make vodka or age them in French oak casks for two years and turned into delicious brandy. With its youthful branding and conscientious business stance, it’s easy to love.
But, for now, what is making its way to Philippine shores are Ventura Spirits’ Haymaker’s Vodka, Wilder Gin, and Opuntia Prickly Pear Brandy, thanks to California-based Filipino Jennifer Lorenzana with Sean Monzon and Vanessa Sison. Each bottle is labeled with a batch number showing the attention and care the makers put into their production.
The Haymaker’s Vodka is made from fresh California apples and potatoes that are mashed, fermented, and six times distilled, resulting in a crisp yet slightly sweet clear liquor. This makes for a lovely base for bright, summery cocktails like a gingery mule.
It was not lost on us the the Wilder Gin makes a timely entry, considering the ongoing fixation on the aromatic spirit. With the hundreds imported and dozens locally distilled (those made to world-class standards, at least), there is that risk of newcomers not making the proper first impression.
However, the distinctly Californian botanicals are sure to set Wilder Gin apart from their better-known rivals. Along with the required juniper berries, Wilder Gin uses herbs and other flora found in the Santa Ynez Mountains. This shrub land is sustained by mild winters and hot summers and provides Ventura Spirits with the distinct botanicals for its gin- sage brush, purple sage, bay, yerba santa, pixie mandarin peel, and chuchupate. The result is a uniquely herbaceous, earthy, almost mentholated nose which Lorenzana claims reminds one of “hiking up the Chaparral trails.” It is so far removed from the traditional English gins and the cologne-like quality of Spanish gins that have become quite popular locally. Truly a unique and fresh offering as a gin and tonic, but sip it on the rocks for a singular experience.
The Opuntia (which literally means “prickly pear”) is not for everyone, but might be appealing to those looking for something new to try. The flavor is as singular as tequila, although it has the smoothness of a fine mezcal. The uninitiated might be tempted to dilute its potency in a sweet cocktails, which is not a bad idea. However, sipping the brandy as a digestive after a good meal allows for better appreciation of this new Californian spirit tradition.
Ventura Spirits brings not only the flavors of the warm breeze, sweet fruits, and desert earth that are distinctly California, but a sustainable and gentler way of life.
Ventura Spirits will be available in ABV, Jupiter Street, Makati City, this October.