For our Gin Club selections so far this year, we’ve travelled (via our tastebuds) to Singapore and Australia. This quarter, we are staying a bit closer to home with Fir Top Botanical Gin from Elk Fence Distillery in Santa Rosa. Longtime friends Gail Coppinger and Scott Woodson started out by brewing beer in a garage in Inverness, learning the ins and outs of fermentation, and ultimately deciding to open a distillery making whiskey, gin, and vodka. After a few setbacks, they finally realized their dream and opened Elk Fence Distillery in 2020. Their Fir Top gin is citrusy, bright, and delicious. It shines beautifully in a Martini, any cocktail with citrus (Gimlet anyone?) or on ice with a twist of lemon. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
Elk Fence Distillery Fir Top Botanical Gin
Santa Rosa, California
Friends since the early 90s, Scott and Gail share a passion for good food and drink. They met when both were hired to work on a house in Marin; Scott was the painter and Gail was the shingler. Scott, a homebrewer, invited Gail to join him in his brewing experiments. Both lovers of whiskey, Scott and Gail dreamed of opening a distillery. Home-distilling, unlike homebrewing, is illegal. So, they created a business plan, found investors, and travelled to distilleries in Kentucky and Pennsylvania to learn how to distill. Wanting to utilize American-made equipment, they purchased a hybrid pot still built by Trident Stills in Etna, Maine. The still stayed in storage while they searched for a site for the distillery. Initially, they grew barley for their gin and whiskey on a farm in Tomales Point, situated next to an elk fence (hence the name of the distillery). When this was no longer feasible, they began to source malt from local malt houses including Admiral Maltings in Alameda. Their progress toward opening a distillery hit a major snag, however, in the form of an archaic law that prohibits anyone applying for a license to distill from sharing a household with someone who works for a business that holds multiple liquor licenses. Scott’s wife, Cat, works for Hog Island Oyster Company, which holds multiple liquor licenses across its locations. The only way around it was for Scott and Cat to get a divorce (strictly for legal reasons!). After clearing this last hurdle, Scott and Gail finally realized their dream and opened Elk Fence distillery in Santa Rosa. They have an onsite tasting room that is furnished with a redwood bar dating back to the 1860s, an antique bottle collection and an upright Steinway Piano from 1897. Everything at Elk Fence is very much a two-person operation, down to each bottle being hand-labelled by Scott and Gail themselves.
Distillers: Gail Coppinger and Scott Woodson
Price: $48/bottle (special club member price)
Botanicals: mostly a secret, but include coriander and (of course) juniper
Tasting Notes: On the nose, there is an immediate burst of sweet citrus that gives way to soft pine and juniper. The citrus continues to pop on the palate along with a hint of spicy coriander. The finish is smooth with lingering citrus (grapefruit pith).
Cocktails featuring Fir Top Botanical Gin (recipes and notes courtesy of Scott Woodson)
A true classic -- over 100 years old (some things do get better with age)! Elegant, perfectly balanced and sophisticated. Take your time with this one!
Yields: 1 cocktail
1 1/2 ounces Elk Fence Fir Top Botanical Gin
3/4 ounce Sweet Italian Vermouth (we prefer Antica Formula or Vya)
1/4 ounce Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
2 -3 dashes Orange Bitters (Angostura)
1 strip of Lemon Peel (be careful not to include the bitter white pith)
Combine liquids in a mixing glass, add ice and stir until very, very cold. Strain into a cocktail coupe glass and twist the lemon peel over the top of the glass to express its oil into the drink, then drop peel into the glass.
A perfect drink for those dog days of summer. Light, bright and refreshing. More please!
Yields: 2 cocktails
2 ounces Elk Fence Fir Top Botanical Gin
1 ounce Apricot Liqueur (we prefer Giffard Abricot Du Roussillon)
1 ounce Tangerine Juice (fresh squeezed is best)
1 ounce Lemon Juice (fresh squeezed Meyers are best)
Club Soda to top (Fever Tree)
1 strip of Tangerine Peel (be careful not to include the bitter white pith)
Shake all ingredients with ice (except Club Soda). Then strain into a double rocks glass filled with ice. Top with Club Soda and garnish with Tangerine peel.