Old Harbor Distilling Co. Keeps It Flowing With Local Flare In San Diego's East Village

March 30, 2015

Old Harbor Distilling Co. is the innovative local craft distiller that opened its East Village distillery and tasting room in September 2014, and they’re not slowing down in 2015. The distillery plans to gradually increase its spirits portfolio this year, with new additions to include a coffee liqueur in collaboration with Coffee & Tea Collective and a barrel-aged white rum. It seems that the creativity and momentum applied to the craft beer industry in San Diego is gradually making its way to spirits, and rightly so.

Old Harbor’s become known for their signature gin, San Miguel Southwestern Gin, crafted from fresh, locally grown botanicals in Old Harbor’s recently opened 7,500-square-foot distillery at 270 17th Street in the East Village, the first licensed distillery to open in the city’s urban center. Heavily influenced by Spanish and Mexican cultures, San Miguel is named after the original title bestowed upon San Diego by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the famed explorer who claimed the coastal city for Spain in 1542 and opened the Southwest to discovery.

Drawing upon this inspiration, the Southern California take on London style gin features flavors typically found in Mexican cuisine, including cilantro, coriander, lime, sage, cucumber and Italian juniper berries, much of which is culled from local farms, including Suzie’s Farm near the Mexican border. Distilled by Old Harbor Distilling Co. founder Michael Skubic, the young 27-year-old craft beer and spirits wunderkind who co-founded the North Park-anchored Mike Hess Brewing Co. before leaving to start his own distillery, San Miguel is crafted in a 1,000-liter hybrid copper pot still christened the “Belafonte” (a reference to the venerable vessel in The Life Aquatic).

Growing his company organically by collaborating with both new friends and old from the local craft beer and spirits worlds, Skubic is cultivating a company that produces uncompromising handcrafted spirits of all types with an eye towards keeping things local. San Miguel Southwestern Gin can be found on cocktail menus across the city, including at Juniper & Ivy, Jayne’s Gastropub and The Lion’s Share.

San Miguel is hand bottled at 94 proof (47%ABV) and is currently available for purchase at many liquor stores and a variety of on-premise restaurants and bars countywide. San Miguel has a suggested retail price of $25.99 for a 750 ml bottle, and continued nationwide distribution is planned for 2015.

“San Diego is one of the best cities in the world for growing produce - we have access to year-round botanicals for our gin,” says Old Harbor Distilling Company founder Michael Skubic. “This city is maturing on both the beverage front and the restaurant front, with a focus on access to locally sourced products. We are excited for the future as we get to collaborate with more and more local suppliers and retailers.”
The distillery will gradually increase its portfolio with 2015 releases to include Barrelman, a navy strength (114-Proof) white rum and a barrel-aged version that is aged for a minimum of six months in a variety of oak barrels then blended to taste. Also on tap is Ampersand, a coffee liqueur made with Barrelman rum as a base and blended with Coffee & Tea Collective’s cold pressed coffee; 1542 California Native Botanical Gin, made with native herbs and plants such as California juniper, sagebrush and lemon verbena. Future planned spirits include SMASH, a single malt and single hop amaro, a selection of seasonal eau de vies and a number of whiskies in the works with more details to be released as their arrivals approach.

Old Harbor hosts daily tours of its facility, which includes six 1/4 ounce tastes and an Old Harbor branded take home tasting glass. Tours can be scheduled online at oldharbordistilling.com.