American vodka is not as overly common as some may think. It’s still the European countries that dominate the UK market, but the likes of Skyy do pop up every-now-and-again. The same can be said for Hangar One, a brand that see’s its heritage coming from Alameda, California.
St. George Spirits was founded as America’s first eau de vie distillery in 1982 by Jörg Rupf, a gentleman who had grown up in Germany’s Black Forest to a family of distillers. He went into law and became, at the time, Germany’s youngest judge. On a visit to the University of California at Berkeley in the late 1970’s, he decided to stay and distill local fruit to produce eau de vie. In August 2001, Rupf met with fellow artisan distiller Ansley Coale, president of Craft Distillers and a collaborator in Germain-Robin brandy, to discuss producing flavored vodkas using a method similar to the production of eau de vie.
Hangar One Vodka was founded back in 2001, with Rupf overseeing production and Coale handling design and marketing. Operations were initially based in Rupf’s St. George’s distillery in Hangar 1, a 2,000 square-foot World War II-era hangar at the old Alameda Naval Air Station, before expansion saw it move to a 60,000 square-foot hangar in Alameda, California, in 2004. In April 2010, Hangar One was acquired by Proximo Spirits, who continued to produce the vodka in Alameda through St. George until the Summer of 2014. It is now produced in the building next to St George’s distillery which it shares with Faction Brewery, and is headed up by Master Distiller Caley Shoemaker.
So what about the vodka itself?
Hangar One prides itself as a small batch vodka made from a blend of pot-distilled Viognier grapes and column still-distilled Midwestern American wheat. The flavored varieties are created by infusing the vodka base with fresh fruit, and then distilling the vodka within a pot still which takes about four weeks per batch from start to finish.
So how does the mix of grape and wheat fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Hangar One Straight – 40%
Light, perfumed aromas of the Viognier grapes scented along a base of the American wheat on the nose. Scented upon the palate too, with the grapes dominating initially, and the creamy wheat base comes through to offer a ripe, stringent and lively spiced finish. Long.
Hangar One Mandarin Blossom – 40%
Ripe mandarin and satsuma upon the nose, with soft hints of rose petal coming through. Bold, thin yet light on the palate, with a soft warmth of the orange, mandarin and subtle honey notes. Fresh on the finish, with a rich kick to develop a long experience.
Hangar One ‘Buddha’s Hand’ Citron – 40%
The ancient relative of the modern lemon, Buddha’s Hand Citron offers a lower acidity. Very ripe, sharp citrus upon the nose, with sherbet following closely. Soft on the palate, with small bursts of dry lemon, apricot and earthy notes such as basil. Lingering at the finish.
Hangar One have many a serve to suggest, but maybe try one or two of these –
Cranberry Citrus, by Jillianastasia
60 ml Hangar One Straight Vodka
120 ml Ginger ale
60 ml Cranberry juice
60 ml Orange juice
60 ml Pineapple juice
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake with ice, and pour into glass. Garnish with sugared cranberries and rosemary. Serves 2.
Apple Hinny, by Jason Cousins
50 ml Hangar One Straight Vodka
30 ml Fresh green apple juice
15 ml Lime juice
Apple fan garnish
Combine the ingredients within an ice filled highball glass, stir, garnish and serve.
A very underrated vodka, with two different flavour profiles of the flavoured expressions. Perhaps one for the cabinet at home?
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