Edited by Capra Press, Distilled Stories: California Artisans Behind the Spirits, (San Francisco: Capra Press, 2016), 256 pages, $20.00.
Distilled Stories: California Artisans Behind the Spirits recounts the stories of 32 California distillers and how they came to make distilling their profession. Distilled Stories was born out of a desire to better understand the spirits renaissance that is currently sweeping much of the world. After a chance meeting with Arthur Hartunian, the editors of the book decided to seek out and interview members of the California Artisanal Distillers Guild to hear their stories and record for posterity what inspired their passion for distilling and drove them to make it their life’s work. Distilled Stories is introduced by Wayne Curtis with a brief history of the U.S. spirits industry, which sets the distillers’ stories into their proper historical context.
In Wayne Curtis’ introduction, he likens the growth and increased variety of high-quality spirits available to consumers to a child’s coloring box which once only held six colors but now contains 128. Similarly, each distiller’s story represents the addition of a new hue to the spirits world that is making it more rich and vibrant than ever before. Distilled Stories is a fascinating and interesting read because each distiller’s story is unique and varied. Some of the distillers come from long family traditions that span hundreds of years, while others are completely new to the industry. Despite these variations in background, each distiller’s story illustrates the drive and passion it takes to create unique spirits that they and their families can be proud of. Each story also represents a part of the vanguard of California’s burgeoning artisan distilling movement. While it is certain that the number of California distilleries will continue to grow, Distilled Stories will serve as an important artifact for spirit lovers and inspiration for future generations of distillers.
Originally published in Distiller Magazine Summer 2016