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OED tours San Jose’s first distillery since Prohibition
Craft whiskey aged in San Jose now joins the city's vibrant craft brewing community, and debuts with a prize-winning product
Taking seriously its responsibility to visit and become familiar with San Jose’s manufacturers and their products, a team of OED business development professionals toured and sampled at 10th Street Distillery, manufacturers of San Jose’s first spirits product, a single-malt whiskey with a Bay Area “terroir.”
Usually, terroir refers to the local essence that a vintage wine gets from the weather, soil and general biome of the place the grapes were grown and the wine was bottled. As explained by co-founder of the 10th Street, Virag Saksena, the mineral-rich water that comes to us from the Sierras and local airborne yeasts do offer his whiskey distinctive taste notes. The authentic single-malt nature of the product is derived from the specialty peated malts imported from Scotland, and Saksena’s apprenticeship program at a famous distillery in Scotland.
Saksena and 10 Street Distillery co-founder Vishal Gauri have started distributing their product to local bars and restaurants, including Paper Plan and Alexander’s Steakhouse, and it is available on the shelves at Total Wine. This is a quick turnaround for a product that is usually prized for having been aged for years if not decades, and given Saksena’s previous career in the always-do-it-faster software world, maybe it’s not surprising. 10th Street’s single-malt is bottled after just 14-18 months. Saksena attributes this relatively rapid process to ensuring that what goes into the casks is designed to be smooth, complex and clean even before aging.
Saksena and Gauri did get significant support from OED’s business development staff as they searched for and completed renovations on the former warehouse located southeast of Downtown on 10th Street. Distilling requires some very large equipment, such as the custom-designed and -built fermenters, copper stills and vats of mash and wort, not to mention stacks of barrels with whiskey as it ages to perfection. In fact, the co-owners signed the lease in July 2017 and were able to start filling barrels in November the same year.
The resulting whiskey is the proud recipient of the Gold Medal (Best in Class) Whiskies of the World, 2018. Its flavor profile is described on the 10th Street website thusly:
- Nose: citrus, with a peat smoke essence
- Color: light golden
- Palate: creamy full flavors of vanilla and dark red apple peels, turning into rounded peat flavors. A delicate balance of fruity and smoky notes.
- Finish: full-bodied, buttery, with a lingering peaty finish
OED’s designated tasters, Deputy Director Chris Burton and Business Development Officer Nathan Donato-Weinstein, reported this evaluation: “Nice, mellow and smooth.”
San Jose is already recognized as a center for beer brewing and a broad, deep and eclectic range of food and hospitality offerings. Adding our own distillery just gives us one more bragging right.
Another look at the 10th Street Distillery is available in the recent issue of CONTENT Magazine.