Some Information About How Products Are Made & Why They Differ
Since we opened in Santa Barbara County, California, in March 2013, I have had a lot of visitor questions about how our products are made and why they’re so good. It was easy to explain to visitors to the distillery who took tours with us in person. In recent months, we have expanded from California to selling Ascendant products in several other states and now have many great customers across the country, who can’t conveniently take tours with us. So, in order to keep all of our customers informed, I will be providing notes from time to time about how our products are made and what makes them distinctive.
All whiskies are spirits made from grain. The U.S. government defines classes of whiskey principally by the type and amount of grains used, by the state where the distillate is made, by the types of barrels used, and by the length of barrel aging. These and many other factors are involved in producing whiskies with very different characteristics. For example, corn whiskey, by law, must be made with at least 80% of the grains being corn, and bourbon with at least 51% corn. Yet even at this first product design step, there are differences. Our corn whiskeys, which we distill in Buellton, California, are made with 100% American corn. Our Silver Lightning and Pink Lightning Corn Whiskies are made from sweet yellow corn. Our Semper Fi Corn Whiskey is made from non-GMO or organic native red corn, white corn and blue corn varieties grown in the Southwest.
To understand differences in bourbon products, it is important to know that various bourbons are made from different mixtures of corn with other grains. Different proportions of these grains lead to very different tasting products. Some products use rye, some use wheat, and many use barley as complements to corn. A distillery can use millet or quinoa in addition to the corn base. The specific grains and their proportions are called the “mash bill”. Ascendant Spirits currently uses a bourbon distillate with a corn, rye and barley mash bill distilled by the Lawrenceburg Distillery in Indiana (LDI) more than five years ago. We think this makes an excellent ingredient for our product. (The LDI factory makes many different mash bills for many different producers.) As we begin to distill our own Breaker bourbon in California, we will continue to use the same mash bill.
The second key set of factors in producing different finished whiskey end products is the barreling and aging process. Bourbon, by law, must be aged in new oak barrels that have been charred on the inside. (These rules are set by the Federal TTB agency.) Scotch single malt whiskies, with no new barrel legal requirement, are often aged in used bourbon barrels. The wood for barrel staves in commercial whiskey barrels are from different locations with different growing conditions, making each barrel different and imparting different flavors. How long the bourbon has been aged and under what climate conditions are additional important variables. The complexity and flavors change over time, as the temperature, humidity and other conditions affect the barrel. In a future note, I will discuss why Ascendant’s location in Santa Barbara makes such an important difference in the whiskey aging process.
The third and most important set of factors in producing a bourbon is the blending process. As noted above, after aging for five or more years, each barrel of our bourbon distillate is essentially unique. Some have more fruit notes, others have more smoky notes, others more predominant oak characteristics, etc. The mega-distilleries dump (i.e., blend) a huge number of barrels at a single production run, thus limiting much of the differences among barrels. In such cases, the mash bill and years of barrel aging are the pre-dominant factors in the end product. At Ascendant, we sample and record the characteristics of each barrel, seeking a set of eight barrels which, when blended together, produce the exceptionally smooth flavor and complexity that we seek to give our Breaker consumers. We take these eight selected barrels and then produce the final product batch and hand-bottle it. Every bottle is then individually numbered with a unique bottle and batch number. This very small amount of finished whiskey which is blended and bottled per batch is what makes our product “artisan” or “hand-crafted”. Buy or sample our award-winning Breaker Bourbon and taste the difference for yourself.
Happy Earth Day! The first Earth Day was over four decades ago and it's still going strong.
In 1969 at a UNESCO Conference in San Francisco, peace activist John McConnell proposed a day to honor the Earth and the concept of peace, to first be celebrated on March 21, 1970, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere.
A month later a separate Earth Day was founded by United States Senator from Wisconsin Gaylord Nelson as an environmental teach-in first held on April 22, 1970.
Here at Ascendant Spirits we try to support the environmental movement be engaging in best practices in the distilling industry. Distilling is a water intensive process and we work to limit our water use by recapturing our hot steam heated water to use in cleaning.
We also prioritize green sourcing of materials. When possible we use organic, non-GMO, pesticide free fruit - caviar limes and strawberries - from local farmers. We don't use artificial additives, fake colors or preservatives in our spirits.
We promote recycling at the distillery and unlike many of our competitors, who dump their spent grain in the landfill, we give ours to a local farmer to feed their pigs.
We're in the process of converting the fork lift to run off our waste alcohol, and we are switching to biodegradable corn based tasting cups.
We always welcome suggestions for improvement.
Ascendant Spirits Anniversary Announcement
Ascendant Spirits, Santa Barbara’s first distillery since prohibition, is delighted to invite one and all to help us celebrate our one-year anniversary, on Saturday and Sunday, March 1st and 2nd. We will be open for extended hours from 11am to 8pm Saturday and 11am to 7pm Sunday.
This has been a great year for Ascendant Spirits. Ascendant Spirits was just chosen by Drink Me Magazine as the U.S. “Spirits Producer of the Year,” their highest honor. They also named our American Star Vodka as “’Best Vodka of the Year.” This comes on top of awards in November of a Gold Medal for our unique American Star Caviar Lime Vodka by the Beverage Tasting Institute and a Double Gold Medal for our Silver Lightning Moonshine at the New York International Spirits Competition. Silver Lightning was the only white whiskey honored with a double gold.
To start off our 2nd year, tastings of all four of our current products will be reduced from $10 to just $2 per person on this anniversary weekend. Tours of the distillery are free as always.
On both Saturday and Sunday Al Fresco Picnic’s mobile catering truck will be on site selling lunches. On Saturday evening a BBQ dinner prepared by Cowboy Flavor will be available for purchase. There will also be a live performance by Devastating Karate Saturday from 4pm till 8pm.
The distillery tasting room is located at 37 Industrial Way, Suite 103, Buellton.
Please come join us for this milestone celebration!
37 Industrial Way, Suite 103
Buellton, CA 93427
Facebook- Ascendant Spirits Distillery & Tasting Room
Twitter handle- @ASDistillery
We are all very excited here at Ascendant Spirits......
The San Francisco based team behind the Craft Spirits Carnival and Drink Me Magazine have released there 2014 awards and Ascendant Spirits did exceptionally well:
Domestic Distillery of the Year Award - Ascendant Spirits
Vodka of the Year - American Star Vodka
Both American Star Vodka and Silver Lightning Moonshine were chosen as Top 50 Spirits.
Drink Me Magazine national circulation ~ 100,000
See the full list here:
You should soon start to see our Silver Lightning Moonshine available at your local California Ralph's grocery store.
Santa Barbara, CA- Stephen Gertman, President & Master Distiller at Ascendant Spirits, Inc., announced his distillery won another major award this week.
"We're delighted our Silver Lightning Moonshine has medaled at one of the most respected spirits competitions in the world - the 2013 New York International Spirits Competition (NYISC)."
Competing against whiskies from all over the world, Silver Lightning Moonshine was selected as one of only seven whiskies to be awarded the highest honor, a Double Gold Medal. Only two other American distilleries won similar awards, one for bourbon and another for a malt whiskey.
"It is a great honor to receive a double gold medal from the NYISC for our Silver Lightning Moonshine. To be the only white whiskey to receive such high marks makes me and my entire team extremely proud of what we have created. This whiskey is made by hand in very small batches with exacting attention to every detail."
Over 37 countries submitted their brands to be critiqued by a hand-selected panel of A-List and key trade judges – buyers, retail store owners, restaurant/bar proprietors, distributors and importers.
"This award reinforces what many people have told me, Silver Lightning is the best corn whiskey moonshine they have ever tasted."
Do you add lime to your favorite vodka drink?
Our small flavor still, nicknamed UFO due to it being silver and bulbous, is cooking at full tilt these days. We're making a caviar lime flavored version of our award-winning American Star Vodka. Caviar Limes get their name from the little flavor bursts you get when you break them open.
We've had a lot of fun making this delicious spirit! This vodka is a bright, flavorful, and clean
expression of the unique and rare caviar lime. The caviar lime is less acidic than its more common lime relatives, and contains essential oils in its skin that are not found in other citrus.
These limes are grown nearby, especially for us on one of the few farms producing caviar limes in the entire country. Once the fresh limes are delivered to the distillery, we carefully infuse them with our six-time distilled American Star Vodka. The resulting spirit is a rare vodka that is perfect for sipping straight or replacing other vodkas in your favorite cocktails.
American Star Caviar Lime is the new epitome in ultra premium citrus vodka.
You'll start seeing American Star Caviar Lime Vodka in bars, restaurants, resorts, and specialty retailers staring in September.
We are delighted to announce our exclusive statewide partnership with Southern Wine & Spirits becomes official on July 29th! Southern Wine and Spirits of America is the largest wine and spirits distributor in the United States
with operations in 35 states. Southern was one of the first companies to have state-wide distribution in California, which is the company's largest market.
Ascendant Spirits will participate in the The Artisanal Group, a collection of craft brands from within the larger Southern catalog. Our Breaker Bourbon, American Star Vodka and Silver Lightning Moonshine will be featured products, soon to be followed by American Star Caviar Lime Vodka, American Star Strawberry Vodka and Pink Lightning Moonshine.Southern represents approximately 1,600 wine, spirits, beer, and beverage suppliers from around the world, and markets, promotes, merchandises, and distributes over 5,000 brands. The company employs more than 11,000 people. During a working week, Southern sales, delivery, and support staff collectively call on or service over 200,000 different chain and independent retail and restaurant customers across the country!
Ascendant Spirits is proud to be a member of The Artisanal Group, which was formed to direct contemporary mixologists, savvy buyers and adventuresome restaurateurs to hand-crafted spirits from around the globe.Be sure to look for Ascendant Spirits products in the upcoming Artisanal Group product catalog.
Everyone's heard of the original American outlaw signature drink: moonshine. But not everyone has tried it. Have you?
You'll soon get to taste the best moonshine West of the Pecos (and maybe east, too), because Ascendant Spirits' Master Distiller Steve Gertman has perfected a truly Californian small batch of premo moonshine.
Drinking moonshine is an American custom. Since the 1700s American farmers have been mashing their leftover grain and corn to make whiskey. Moonshine gets its renegade reputation from those who hid their copper stills in the densely forested Appalachian mountains to avoid paying taxes on the product.
Making moonshine is an art that's been secretly passed down for generations. Moonshine is made by fermenting corn in water and yeast. The yeast eats up the sugar in the corn and transforms it into a potent alcohol. Corn is naturally sweet, giving moonshine its
signature nectarous taste.
Back when, bootleggers would boil the fermented corn mash in the middle of the night using only moonlight to guide them through the nighttime process of distillation. Working only by the moonlight helped hide the fire's smoke and their secret from the law.
Our master distiller, Steve, took a rugged process that too often yields less than superior results and perfected it. Other moonshines that cut corners and use inferior ingredients will taste like flavored nail polish remover. However, Ascendant Spirits' small batch Silver Lightning Moonshine is a premium craft product that can be enjoyed neat or with your favorite mixer. All hard liquor has rough roots. But hard liquor becomes fine liquor when craft distillers like us take the time to refine and perfect the product.
Silver Lightning runs clean and smooth with floral and maize notes on a creamy sweet finish. A good moonshine should taste like the grains from which it is made, which is why we use only 100% yellow sweet corn sourced from New Mexico.
Our unique California coastal valley marine climate allows us to produce some of the best whiskey and spirits in the U.S.A.
And moonshine isn't just for drinking in overalls, comfortable as they may be. We've brought this American original into the 21st century and made it a drink for everyone. Make sure you get a bottle quickly, because once the moon comes out on July 2nd it'll be gone.