Griffo Distillery is situated in the gorgeous region of Sonoma County in California.
Michael and Jenny Griffo have created a sense of community as well as a new life for their family.
Michael gained a PhD in physics research at the University of California, Santa Cruz and continued with a post-doc. His love of physics and enquiring, innovative approach would eventually lead to a fantastic career as a distiller.
Jenny also comes from an inspiring background. She graduated from Stanford and joined Room to Read where she partnered with local communities and governments in South East Asia, encouraging the integration of early childhood literacy into education programs.
This intrepid, communal spirit would translate itself into the distillery’s core values. Griffo Distillery is an impressive example of becoming fully integrated into the local community by hiring locally, sourcing botanicals and equipment locally and embracing their responsibility to their surrounding countryside and neighbours.
It was in the summer of 2008 that Michael and Jenny first had the idea to build a distillery. Long hours in the lab and extensive periods of travelling left them desiring a new way of life, one which would allow them to work together and create a legacy for their family. Once Jenny had voiced the idea of building a distillery, the wheels were set in motion.
They spent five years saving every penny, writing a business plan and gaining invaluable experience by interning at other distilleries. Their patience and efforts were rewarded when, (with the help of a small business loan) they established Griffo Distillery.
It took another two years of full-time construction, recipe trials and brand development before Griffo Distillery officially opened in April 2015.
The aim was to produce several different spirits, including gin, vodka and whiskey. Their still, Betty, was custom-designed and includes a range of bespoke controls designed by Michael. She is a 250 gallon copper pot still made by Vendome Copper and Brass Works. Betty is named after Jenny’s great grand-aunt who was a strong, beautiful woman who loved being the life of every party and lived to 98.
The gin is produced via the one-shot method, using neutral organic corn spirit as the base and macerating the botanicals for up to 24 hours prior to distillation. The gin is brought down to its bottling strength, (46%) by the addition of Russian River Valley water. 450 bottles are created per run.
Grains of Paradise
Fresh Meyer Lemon
The aim was to create a bottle and label design which are elegant and timeless. Michael and Jenny wish the bottle and liquid inside to be classical and “stand the test of time” without becoming dated or tied to a particular year/decade. The back label reveals further details upon inspection, (though I haven’t seen it myself!). Jenny tells me that around the Griffo Distillery monogram is the saying “Quod Erat Demonstrandum” which is used in higher mathematics “to convey that a fact or situation demonstrates the truth of one’s theory or claim, especially to mark the conclusion of a formal proof.” The label was designed by Shipwreck Design in Seattle.
Their gin is named Scott Street Gin after the street the distillery is located on.
Michael and Jenny incorporate many core values within Griffo Distillery, sustainability and environmental concerns being high on the list of priorities. I’m so pleased to hear more distilleries actively talking about the measures they put in place to ensure these sustainability ideas are instigated.
Griffo Distillery also produce whiskey. They have nearly zero waste water with the brewing system being designed so that the water used for washing the tanks moves from the mash kettle to the fermenters to the still and then on to farmers for their livestock.
The heads and tails of the distillation runs are used around the distillery and at local wineries as a sanitiser.
Heat that is generated to run the distillery’s equipment is recycled to provide ambient heating for the office space and barrel storage area.
Used barrels are sent to breweries for a second life.
Their organic corn and rye is sourced from northern California, some coming from farms less than 10 miles away.
Tasting Note – Scott Street Gin
Aromas: Rich, savoury aromas. Punchy, but not shouting if that makes sense! Strong coriander notes with black pepper and juniper over a solid floral base. Dry cinnamon and a woody bark character. Sweet orange in the background. Layer, changing and intriguing.
Palate: Soft, an almost weightless texture which is unfamiliar in gin. A rich warmth of orange and blossom with a solid juniper core. Orange pepper tones appears on a lingering finish. Distinctive peppery heat though, not simply alcohol.
With Tonic: Saffron and dry spice aromas with orange peel underneath. A smooth palate reveals a touch of rose. Great depth of character in a good round profile. Juniper, sage and orange spice with good length.
I’m impressed with the ideas and methodology behind Griffo Distillery. Scott Street Gin is a solid example, well-crafted and with great depth. It is a slightly different profile to what we’re used to the in UK, but by no means to its detriment.
I’m looking forward to their Chardonnay barrel-aged gin being released soon and trying their whiskey!