That stone and brick building housed a distillery that was built in the 1880’s, the 209th distillery registered in the United States. It was built by original 209 Founder William Scheffler, who purchased a patent in New York for a pot still and ultimately used that design in building the distillery. It is known that he received numerous awards, including a medal at the Grand Exposition in Paris in 1889.
Rudd may not have needed any further inspiration to pursue the re-introduction of 209; in 2004 the French medal turned up on an auction site, allowing him to purchase and return it to its rightful home.
Ironically, when plans were formulated for the re-introduction of 209, the size of the original barn was determined to be too small. Also, consumers don’t associate distilled spirits with Napa. So Rudd chose Pier 50 in China Basin in San Francisco, securing more space, an urban location befitting a spirit like gin, and a unique promotional angle. It’s the only distillery in the world built over water. After securing a copper pot still custom crafted in Scotland, 209 Gin was launched on August 1st of this year. Rudd says, “We like to call it simply 209, because this five-times distilled spirit is not your father’s gin. It’s a new and innovative expression of the gin standard.”
Distillery 209 Technical Director Arne Hillesland, who developed the 209 recipe with his assistant, says Rudd asked him to create a recognizable gin - juniper is still the main ingredient - but also one that had a lot of other flavor characteristics. He explains: “One of the things we’re using is bergamot orange peel from Italy. It’s used commonly in the perfume industry. It’s in the bitter orange family and that is a flavor we don’t believe anyone else is using in gin.” Hillesland uses an overnight maturation process to distill the bergamot peel and the other botanical flavor ingredients such as juniper berries, coriander, and cardamom, without imparting any bitterness into the spirit. 209 also utilizes what he calls a “single shot distillation where all of the ingredients are only used once and only in the right proportion for that particular distillation of the gin.”
And whatever happened to the original 209 building that was the inspiration for this bottle’s story? It’s a happy ending or, more accurately, a new beginning. It was fully restored and recently received a restoration award from the Napa Valley Historic Preservation Society.
(Distributed by Southern Wine & Spirits)