Visiting Alley 6 Craft Distillery, Healdsburg, California

Toward the end of a visit to Napa Valley, my mind turned from wine to whiskey, so on our way home we passed by Silver Oak and Jordan in the Alexander Valley and stopped at Alley 6 Craft Distillery in the Sonoma County city of Healdsburg.

The Story: A distillery amid hundreds of wineries is a unique niche. Krystle and Jason Jorgensen founded Alley 6 in 2012 after Jason worked a dozen plus years as a bartender. As he tells it, he wanted to find a way to drink cheaper.

They are committed to being a true craft distiller, selling only “grain to glass” liquor made entirely on-site (milling, mashing, fermenting, distilling, barreling, and bottling). They now have two 123 gallon Alembic Copper pot stills that they bought from the larger Sonoma Distilling Company down the road.

The Liquor: Five liquors are offered for the $10 tasting (1 of our 2 tasting fees was waived because we bought a bottle).

The Single Malt Whiskey was aged just over a year. The “heavy charred” American oak 10-15 gallon barrels help accelerate the aging process, but the spirit still had a young taste.

The Rye Whiskey was my favorite. Although aged less than 2 years, the 22% malted barley and sub-90 proof take some of the rough edges off this spirit.

If I had more space and money, I would have gotten a bottle of the Apple Brandy. Being in California, it reminds me of John Steinbeck’s drinking “California calvados.”

The Spiced Peach liqueur, we were told, was supposed to be a peach brandy but it got over-oaked and so was salvaged with sugar and spice. The result was pleasing as it is sweeter than a peach brandy but less sweet than many peach liqueurs.

Finally, the Harvest Gin is grape-based (an easy choice in wine country) and adds distinctive local laurel and wild fennel. If I wasn’t limited to one bottle, I would have gotten one of these, too.

The Visit: The distillery is located in a metal building in an unassuming industrial office park off the main road. You enter the cozy tasting room through the main door.

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The Poet’s Corner stained glass piece behind the tasting bar was salvaged from a bar in Colorado. Nice touch.

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We asked if we could have a “tour” of the facility but were told initially that it was a mess because they were setting up for an event later. I said all working distilleries are messy, to no avail.

During our tasting, owner/distiller Jason Jorgensen came in and we asked if we could get a photo with him, and when he opened the door to the distilling area hit him up for a tour. He gladly welcomed us to see where the magic happens. I’ve seen a lot messier distilleries, so hopefully the host won’t be as reluctant to let future guests poke around. That’s half the fun, after all.