Almost a year ago, an ambitious road trip up the West Coast of USA took us past Venus Spirits Distillery in Santa Cruz, California. Founder & Master Distiller Sean Venus kindly opened up early on a Wednesday morning to show us around and take four of us through a full tasting of their superb range. Talk about hair of the dog…
Despite having only been open a year at the time, Sean & co. produced two exciting gins, aquavit, a blanco agave spirit, and a trio of whiskies for us to sample. Since then, he’s also added reposado and anejo expressions of the El Ladrón blue agave spirit to the range, and won a bunch of awards along the way. Sean started off down a boozy 20 years ago when he first got into homebrewing. He went on to work in various breweries in Eugene (OR) and San Jose (CA) before his love of craft beer made way for whiskey and he set about opening his own distillery kitted out with hand-pounded copper alembic stills and New American Oak barrels.
Back in the UK, we tend to be sceptical about a distillery that doesn’t focus solely on one category, but it’s much more common in the US. If our trips to Venus Spirits, St.George Spirits (Alameda, CA) and New Deal Distillery (Portland, OR) are anything to go by, those Americans know what they are doing. From the Scandinavian ode to caraway that is Aquavit, to the Mexican magic of agave spirits, Sean and his team have created accomplished and unique expressions across the board, all of which were dangerously sippable. I’m still kicking myself for not loading up with a few bottles to take home.
Sean opens up for tours and tastings from Friday-Sunday. Tastings are $15 and include six quarter-ounce pours and a tasting glass. He’ll also mix you up a cocktail or two on Fridays if you turn up between 5pm and 7pm. Head to the Venus Spirits website to read more about each spirit, get some cocktail suggestions, and check the latest opening times.