Food & Drink

Placer County-based gin toasts award-winning status

Craft distiller Ed Arnold says he founded California Distilled Spirits in Auburn because he wanted to try crafting something that he’d like to drink, and he wanted complete control over the creative process.
Craft distiller Ed Arnold says he founded California Distilled Spirits in Auburn because he wanted to try crafting something that he’d like to drink, and he wanted complete control over the creative process. Special to The Bee

Take a sip of Darjeeling Gin, savor its complex aromatics and flavors, then give a toast to good ol’ water from Auburn. Beyond the secret blend of botanicals that comprise Darjeeling Gin, an award-winning concoction made by Placer County’s California Distilled Spirits, the area’s water is a key ingredient in the distillation process.

“Auburn water sounds funny, but it makes a big difference,” said Ed Arnold, founder of California Distilled Spirits. “There’s a fair amount of mineralization that comes through, and that adds to the flavor.”

It’s a flavor that once wowed an international judging panel. Darjeeling Gin was awarded “best of show” for gin and a platinum award in the 2014 World Spirits Competition.

The win was especially big for this small-batch producer, the rare distillery which operates in the greater Sacramento area. Take a taste and you’ll see why this gin is a winner, given its smoothness that makes it tempting to sip on its own, or ability to add significant flavor to a variety of cocktails. Along with that mineral-rich Auburn water in the distillation process, the gin’s ingredients include citrus peel – sourced locally, of course – and Darjeeling tea. Note that chlorine and iron are filtered from the water before it enters the distillation process.

California Distilled Spirits remains a fairly small company that produces about 500 bottles per month, but hopes to ramp up that production to 1,000 bottles per month. The craft spirits industry itself is a fairly niche but growing category of the adult beverage industry. According to the most recent data from the American Craft Spirits Association, nearly 800 craft distilleries operate in the country, a tenfold increase over the past decade, and small distilleries which sell less than 100,000 cases per year command about 2 percent of value share in the United States spirits market.

Arnold looks to expand his company’s public profile, given the passage of the Craft Distillers Act of 2015, which allows distilleries to hold on-site tastings and sell bottles directly to customers. Arnold plans to open California Distilled Spirits’ tasting room in the spring, and will debut a line of whiskey this summer.

Chris Macias: 916-321-1253, @chris_macias

Ed Arnold – California Distilled Spirits

What’s so special: California Distilled Spirits and its acclaimed gin shows that the small guys, even those from the greater Sacramento area, can turn heads with cocktail aficionados and even land international accolades.

The local connection: Straight outta Auburn, and with some ingredients sourced nearby, this Auburn distillery has planted its flag firmly for the promise of spirits made in the greater Sacramento area.

Expectations: Along with the rise of craft beer over the past decade, small-batch spirits and the craft bars that incorporate them also have seen a surge of interest. Arnold hopes to ride this wave of interest by expanding his production line and showing off his spirits in his upcoming tasting room.

Quote: “With me, it all starts with making things that I’d like to drink. I wanted to have complete control of the creative process and make something that doesn’t exist right now. That’s what does it for me.”

Ed Arnold, owner of California Distilled Spirits

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