The story of this San Francisco gin begins in New York in 1870, when William Scheffler purchased a patent for rights to a new design of a pot still. He journeyed westward and in 1882, registered a distillery in St. Helena, California and was given distillery license number 209 by the federal government. The restoration of Distillery 209 began in the 20th century and the distillery was ultimately moved from St. Helena to San Francisco. Today, 130 years after Scheffler proudly painted his license number over the doors of his stone and brick distillery, Distillery 209 is situated in the shadow of AT&T Park at Pier 50, and is the only distillery in the world that is built over water.
Whether you enjoy drinking gin straight, sipping a proper martini, or want to welcome summer with a sublime gin and tonic, Distillery 209 makes a unique artisanal spirit that is truly outstanding.
Born in a 25-foot tall copper alembic pot still, No. 209 Gin is the child of Arne Hillesland, the master distiller at Distillery 209. After apprenticing with a Master Distiller from Scotland, Arne developed both the No. 209 Gin recipe as well as some of the innovative techniques that give No. 209 Gin its unique flavor profile. The gin's secret recipe calls for somewhere between eight and eleven different botanicals — the distillery is intentionally vague on the exact number. In addition to juniper berries (the staple of every gin) from Tuscany, the recipe calls for cardamom from Guatemala, cassia bark from Indonesia, coriander seeds from Romania, bergamot orange from Calabria and lemon peel from Spain. The lemon peel and bergamot orange give the gin a citric fragrance and citrusy flavor profile.
To say that No. 209 Gin is handcrafted is an understatement. Arne uses only pure snow melt water from the Sierra Nevada mountains and he hand-sorts the cardamom seeds used in the fermentation process by length, choosing only the shorter seeds for a sweeter taste and tossing the long seeds to avoid a bitter aftertaste. In addition, Distillery 209 prides itself on limiting the number of congeners, or hang-over producing substances, used in the production of the gin.
After distilling the gin four times over, Arne lets the botanicals macerate overnight in the pot still, gently coaxing out the natural, citrus flavors. The height of the pot still reflects the profile of the gin — because the still is so tall, it creates a lighter flavored gin. After maceration, the gin is distilled a fifth time. Then, Arne discards the heads (beginning) and tails (end) of the distillation and bottles the heart (middle) into No. 209 Gin.
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No. 209 Gin opens with a beautifully aromatic nose of citrus and floral notes with a hint of spiciness. Lemon and orange high notes predominate and as the spirit warms in the mouth, delicate floral notes are liberated from the bergamot and coriander. Mid palette, juniper flavors emerge with a wonderful counterpoint from the cardamom. As the gin passes the palette, the cassia and other warm spice notes become prominent, encouraging another sip.