It’s 10 a.m. and I’m drinking gin — Old Trestle Distillery gin to be precise. The Truckee distillery recently released its first: Old Theory Gin 001. Truckee has a long history of distilling spirits dating back to the late 19th Century and Old Trestle Distillery is recreating the historical practice.
Master Distiller Jake Holshue has distilled spirits across the country for a number of years, and he sits on the board of directors for the American Craft and Spirits Association. I met him in what will eventually be the Old Trestle Distillery’s gift shop and production site.
Born and raised in Montana, Holshue is a big guy with a grizzled Abe Lincoln beard and a love for discussing and producing spirits, who loves experimenting with flavors. “Always a distiller, never an owner. I like getting my hands dirty and messy and enjoy seeing people consume my product,” says Holshue. “I taste for relaxation. The joy is in my career. My skill set is honed to make whiskey. Old Trestle’s future lies in brown spirits but here we are making gin.”
I ask him why gin now, since it seems like a summertime spirit.
“People’s ideas of gin are not always correct. I hope to educate the consumer. Theory Gin 001 hosts a platform of field notes with unique flavors. While all spirits shift from state to state and region to region, different flavor profiles are unique to all gins,” he says.
Theory Gin is distilled with locally harvested botanicals that give the gin its distinctive profile.
“We went down to the Truckee River in September and harvested botanicals, which truly give this gin the flavor of Truckee and capture the freshness of the season. We’ll harvest and utilize our area’s botanicals as they become seasonally available for our spirits,” he says. “We believe it’s important to cultivate responsibly and respect the environment.”
The Dutch invited gin and called it Genever. British soldiers came to enjoy it while fighting alongside the Dutch in the late 16th Century.
“Theory 001 is a Western-style gin. It’s easy, approachable and not complex. It is a sweeter gin. Craft distilling has hit this moment of time; craft cocktails are expanding, and people can fill their home bars with these attainable products,” Holshue says, adding that unique craft tonics have flooded the market and mix well with gin cocktails.
Holshue guides me through a back door; the cool air hits my face. Oak kegs are stacked to the ceiling. Large vessels rest with bubbling brown liquid and a shiny 300-gallon still dominates the production area. Holshue offers a crash course in distilling and and a bit of still history.
“The pot and column still were invented by an Irishman named Aeneas Coffey,” he says. The column still was used in Scotland and is known as the Coffey Still.
We walk over to the fermenter. I climb onto a step stool and gaze into a vessel of mash. Holshue warns me not to stick my head into the vat. He describes how they macerate the grain, add botanicals and begin the distillation process. He pours me a glass of Theory Gin 001. The clear liquid smells like gin. The 90 percent spirit is smooth with subtle hints of juniper and rosehips.
He pours me a taste of an experimental gin he’s preparing for China. I swish the amber fluid around in the glass and hold it to my nose; it smells spicy.
I take a sip and my taste buds go wild. “Licorice — it tastes like licorice,” I say, surprised.
The gin he tells me is made with fennel, star anise and spices: “We are very excited to offer a grain-to-glass product made right here in Truckee.”
Old Trestle Distillery will release three to four small batches of Theory Gin 001 and select offerings of vodka, rye and bourbon in 2019. | oldtrestle.com
Theory Gin French 75
From Master Distiller Jake Holshue
1½ oz. Theory Gin 001
¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
¾ oz. honey-based simple syrup
2½ oz. Champagne
Lemon peel for garnish
Simple syrup (Yields enough for 5 cocktails)
¼ C honey
¼ C water
Combine honey and water in small saucepan to make the simple syrup. Warm over medium heat stirring occasionally until blended. Remove from heat and let cool.
Fill the cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in Theory Gin 001, lemon juice, simple syrup and shake until chilled — 10 to 15 shakes. Strain into Champagne glass and top with Champagne. Garnish with lemon.