When it comes to Firestone Walker and Calwise Spirits, you could say we are longtime neighbors in the liquid arts.

Located just a mile south of our main brewery in Paso Robles, Calwise Spirits specializes in artisanal gins, whiskeys, rums, and other spirits, the most notable being the distillery’s signature Big Sur Gin. We’ve long admired what’s going on at Calwise, and you might say a collaboration was inevitable.

So when Master Distiller Aaron Bergh approached us about doing a riff on Big Sur Gin, we were all ears. The result is “Old Tom Big Sur Gin – Rested In Oak,” which was matured in American oak barrels inherited from our DBA fermentation program.

“This was an opportunity to elevate the Big Sur Gin experience with ingredients and input from an iconic California brewery,” Aaron said. “Old Tom Big Sur Gin reflects a meeting of the minds, with grapes, grains, and botanicals coming together to create a gin like no other.”

Nick Firestone added: “This was a natural collaboration. We’ve been working with spirits barrels for nearly 20 years to create our barrel-aged strong ales, and we see this as an extension of that tradition.”

Old Tom Big Sur Gin is available for a limited time starting today at the Calwise Distillery Tasting Room in Paso Robles and at the distillery’s online store.

Collaborative California Spirit

Aaron worked with Brewmaster Matt Brynildson, Sensory Research Analyst Craig Thomas, and the Firestone Walker brewing team to create the mash, acquire the right barrels, and guide Old Tom Big Sur Gin to fruition.

The moniker “Old Tom” is a nod to the original 18th century British gins known by that name, and to the English heritage of brewery co-founder David Walker.

To help create Old Tom Big Sur Gin, we generated a mash of traditional brewing grains with a complement of wine grape juice, all fermented with native yeast and bacteria. This base was then distilled by Calwise, imparting a unique imprint into the flavor profile of the original Big Sur Gin.

“We also enhanced the traditional recipe by including botanicals such as coriander and orange peel, which were suggested by Brewmaster Matt Brynildson,” Aaron said. “We added rose petal as an ode to David Walker’s British roots.”

The “Rested In Oak” edition was matured for three months in the DBA barrels. These barrels have been a staple at Firestone Walker since the very beginning, used to ferment our founding flagship beer – DBA, a.k.a. Double Barrel Ale. As with the beer itself, these barrels imparted hints of toasted oak and caramel to this edition of Old Tom Big Sur Gin. Aaron also created a separate version that was matured in stainless steel instead of oak barrels.

The resulting gins provide both common and contrasting qualities. The un-oaked version (200 bottles produced) is fragrant and elegant, while the version matured in DBA barrels (400 bottles produced) has a richer, almost whiskey-like color and taste.