The Distillery No. 209 story is one of handcrafted gin


The message brought to you by our sponsor Distillery No. 209, purveyors of handcrafted gin.

The No. 209 story begins in New York in 1870, when William Scheffler purchased the patent for California rights to a new design of a pot still. He journeyed west and eventually became a distiller at Krug in St. Helena, Napa Valley. In 1880, Scheffler bought Edge Hill Estate in St. Helena, at the time one of the most impressive wineries in the Napa Valley. A distiller at heart, in 1882 Scheffler added a stone and brick distillery to the winemaking facilities at Edge Hill. He registered the distillery with the Federal Government and was given distillery license number 209 which he proudly painted above the front door of his new distillery building. His distilled spirits were very high quality and won numerous awards, including a medal at the Universal Exposition of 1889 in Paris, France.
In 1999, Leslie Rudd became the new steward of the Edge Hill property. One day while he was surveying the property, he noticed the faintly visible words "Registered Distillery No. 209" painted above the iron doors of what was being used as a hay barn. Unearthing the rest of the story was the point of inspiration for No. 209 Gin and the historical restoration of Edge Hill. The restoration of the original Distillery No. 209 received preservationist awards from both Napa County and the State of California. However, the size and location of the original distillery building were not conducive to plans for the revival of Distillery No. 209. Therefore, a new distillery was built on Pier 50 in San Francisco – coincidentally, the birthplace of the gin martini. True to their initial goals, they have taken the best of traditional Old World distilling techniques and married them with a passion for excellence, innovative thinking, and a willingness to take risks to create No. 209 Gin, a drink for the connoisseur in all of us with the modern flavor profile in mind.

You moved from Silicon Valley to distilling in San Francisco. How did you make such an interesting transition in industry?

In 2003, I was one of many dot com professionals that ended up on the wrong end of a pink slip. At the time I was dating a woman who was a Career Counselor (a real good idea when you are unemployed!). She found the original ad for a Distillery Assistant Manager and she convinced me to apply since I had many years of manufacturing experience in the Silicon Valley. When you get down to it, distilleries are basically very beautiful factories turning out a product filled with history and romance. I was not originally hired to be the distiller, but eventually developed the recipe for No. 209 Gin.

Distillery Building Dusk
No. 209 Gin is considered a modern style gin, why did the owner decide to make a modern style versus a London Dry?

Originally, the intention was to make a London Dry style gin and is one reason our still is fashioned after a classic Glenmorangie pot still. Then our founder, Mr. Leslie Rudd, considered the market further. He realized that there were loads of really well made, established London Dry gins in the market. He also knew that there was a whole generation of consumers who for various reasons have shied away from the big juniper gins. A modern gin, lower in juniper and nuanced with other botanicals, seemed like the way to go to bring the 'Ginnocents' as we call them into the fold.

What makes No. 209 Gin unique?

No. 209 Gin is unique not only due to the lighter juniper content but also because of the intermingling of some of the unusual botanicals that we use. We source the majority of our botanicals from a spice broker in England whose family has been serving the gin industry for generations. Simply put, the quality is consistently excellent. Cardamom, cassia bark and bergamot orange are big players in the flavor profile. No. 209 Gin is bright with lemony citrus notes making it perfectly mixable with a variety of citrus and tropical fruit juices. A little citrus, a little spice, what's not to like?

What's the process of making gin? Do you need a large staff?

Many folks don't realize that gin was probably one of the earliest commercially available flavored vodkas. To make gin (or vodka for that matter), you start with a neutral spirit. We use a 100% corn spirit. Corn has a velvety mouth feel and a bit of a sweet back note. I pump the spirit and water into Rosie, our pot still. I then add our blend of botanicals. Each brand of gin has a different mix of botanicals and amounts, but by law the spirit must be predominately flavored by juniper berries. The botanicals rest overnight in the mixture of alcohol and water at room temperature. The next day, I apply steam heat to the still. The alcohol evaporates away from the water and takes the essential oils of the botanicals with it. The vapors are collected and cooled. The result is gin.
Although the design of the pot still is hundreds of years old, our distillery is quite modern. It is set up in such a way that I can do all of the distilling myself. Bottling though requires at least eight people to do efficiently. We are associated with Rudd Oakville Estate in the Napa valley and they send a crew down to help on bottling days.
What's the story on the name of the gin?
The origin of our name actually dates back to the 1880's. In 1882 an accomplished distiller named William Scheffler built a distillery in St. Helena, California to house his patented vacuum distillation equipment. Back in those days, you were required to have your license number prominently displayed on the outside of the building so the revenuers knew you were legitimate. The license number issued to Mr. Scheffler was for the 209th registered distillery in the history of the United States. When Mr. Rudd purchased the property with the distillery building on it in 1999 (long since a shed for farm implements), he saw the faint lettering on the building of 'Registered Distillery No. 209.' He decided he wanted to re-establish the brand and produce a world class premium gin.

For a look into the Distillery, the glorious bottle design and the cocktails to pair 209 with check in here