Spirit Of The Week: St. George Spirits 40th Anniversary American Single Malt Whiskey

California’s indie distillery leader celebrates four decades of making some of America’s best craft spirits.

(Nicola Parisi)

Leading California’s—and arguably America’s—indie spirits movement, St. George Distillery conjures some serious heaters (their Baller whiskey, Terroir Gin and Absinthe among our favs), and this year the Alameda distillery celebrate four decades of existence. 

You see in 1982 a young German judge by the name of Jörg Rupf moved to UC Berkeley on assignment from his Ministry of Culture. Raised in the Black Forest, Rupf grew up distilling eau-de-vie from local forest berries—and quickly fell in love with California’s wide bouquet of produce. He soon began distilling pears, raspberries, cherries and even kiwis out of a small shed in Emeryville.

St. George Spirits was born. 

In 1997 an eager ex-nuclear engineer named Lance Winters knocked on his door with an audacious request: to hire him, which Rupf did. Soon Winters was convincing Rupf to begin distilling single malts—decades before the American Single Malt category would even be recognized. 

So it’s fitting Rupf, Winters and company are releasing their St. George Spirits 40th Anniversary Edition Single Malt to celebrate their 40 years of existence—being the first American craft distiller to reach this momentous landmark. 

“When St. George was founded forty years ago, we were an eau de vie-focused distillery,” Winters tells us, highlighting how their humble origins define all their spirits.

“The philosophy behind an eau de vie—showcase the best raw materials in a finished distillate—was a great way to start a whiskey program. Our 40th Anniversary Single Malt embraces how we’ve stuck to and expanded that philosophy.”

“Staring down the end of 40 years is an emotional validation of that ideology.”

Winters and Head Distiller Dave Smith tasted over 600 casks for this super limited release expression, with only 14 honey barrels of their single malt making the final cut—including California Sauternes-style and umeshu cask finished whiskies. All pot-distilled between 1997 and 2017, meaning juice from some of St. George’s original ASM barrels are included in the blend. 

Bottled with a punch at 48% ABV, only 1,982 bottles of St. George Spirits 40th Anniversary Edition Single Malt will be sold for an SRP of $500.

Follow Contributing Spirits Editor Nicolas Stecher on Instagram at @nickstecher and @boozeoftheday.