Prescribed Spirits got its start in happenstance, when founder AJ Fazendin paid a visit to his aunt and uncle’s winery in Seattle. Their wine was made in an industrial complex just a few doors down from a vodka distillery, where – with his curiosity piqued – AJ volunteered to work for a day. This gave him his first glimpse of a distillery, setting the ball rolling for life as a ginsmith.
The equipment being used by the distillery was familiar to that used in the kitchens AJ worked in. Inspired, he started making moonshine while working as a sous chef in Colorado. He’d make a mash using steam jackets, then take it home in buckets to ferment.
At first, AJ forged a very amateur still out of a keg, but as he learnt more about the process he built his own two-inch by five-foot copper column, which he packed with a copper mesh to create more reflux. This, he says, made a big difference to his finished product.
As a chef, AJ had always felt he had a great understanding in the ways in which flavours meld together and along the way, felt he had gained experience with his work with spices and herbs familiar to those used in gin. This (and his enjoyment of the drink) lit the spark that eventually lead to him approaching a rum distillery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida after he’d decided that the recipe he had was good enough to make the move from moonshine to professional territory.
South Florida Distillers is one of the newer distilleries in South Florida and produces FWAYGO rum, amongst other products. To make its rum, the distillery strips alcohol from fermented molasses in its two 26-gallon pot stills, named Kandi and Pixie. The distillers call themselves “sunshiners,” as they fuse old school techniques with modern technology.
South Florida Distillers aims to be a one-stop shop for budding distillers, and all products made there are listed as an SFD product. This prevents new makers from having to jump through hoops to get a legal launch of their own right from the start.
To make Prescribed Spirits Gin, AJ uses a neutral grain spirit base, which he runs through South Florida Distillers two 26-gallon pot stills, though this is set to change; South Florida Spirits has just upgraded to a 250-gallon Still Dragon pot still, which will allow him to produce much more, much faster.
The spirit base is bought in: “I have messed around with fermentation and everything in the past,” AJ informed us with an endearing candidness, “and as far as production and equipment went, I was better off using a consistent, clean base.”
Prescribed Spirits Gin is made in batches of 400 bottle after the stills have been run twice (the batches are made then blended) and watered down to bottling strength – 44% ABV. The imminent move to a bigger still will push these numbers up.
Prescribed Spirits Gin is made using a maceration process, one AJ selected because it was so familiar to him from his cooking days. He blends all of his botanicals and steeps them over time, tasting throughout to make sure the desired consistency has been achieved.
The botanicals were chosen for both their individual flavour profiles and the way in which they interact and blend with each other. Juniper needs to the dominant flavour in gin, but Prescribed Spirits Gin also places a heavy focus on cardamom, while pink peppercorns provide spice and orange brings sweetness.
Prescribed Spirits Gin to taste…
To nose, there is both juniper bringing with it a fresh, piney smell, though the pink peppercorn brings a dusty piquancy that tickles at the nostrils.
The initial sip of Prescribed Spirits Gin is sweet, but this is quickly bustled out of the way by the spiciness of the peppercorns, which lash at the tongue. The juniper is present throughout, bringing a lush, herbal taste with it but it’s the cardamom that is screeching away to taste, progressively getting louder and louder. The gin finishes on a full-on cardamom note, a flavour which holds steady long after the sip is over.
Prescribed Spirits Gin takes its name from historic medicinal use of spirits; don’t forget Gin was used to ail the stomach, to prevent the plague, to treat gout… The bottle looks like an old medicine bottle and was designed with the Old West in mind – AJ wanted to the gin to look like it could be right at home cluttering up the shelves in an old saloon. The bottle certainly stands out – it’s quirky and evocative of a bygone era.
AJ’s history of moonshining is demonstrative of his experimental nature, so it comes as no surprise to hear that he’s already playing with styles and flavours. The next big milestone is the release of Prescribed Spirits Barrel Aged Gin, which at the time of writing, has been ageing in virgin American oak barrels for the past four months. Once label approval has been obtained, the bottling process will begin.
Following that, AJ will aim for national distribution, as currently the gin is only available in the Fort Lauderdale area. Only time will tell whether or not he will succeed and if international distribution is on the cards.
It’s certainly not unfeasible: the gin is a really great example of a progressive American style with a lot of spice, but with enough of a strong juniper that purists will have a lot of time for it too.
The real key will be weather or not AJ manages to establish a strong identity and following for the brand. To do so, he will need to create and nurture the peripheral assets (imagery, social media presence, marketing collateral etc…), that will be required to build core advocacy in such a busy category. It may seem like an easy task but as with any operation that begins as a one man band, combine doing this with all the other aspects of making a gin and getting it out there, on a shoestring budget, things take a little longer! Without it however, Prescribed Spirits Gin may well be another great gin merely gathering dust on shelves…
We certainly hope not and for the record, we think both the gin and AJ will do just fine!
For more information about Prescribed Spirits visit their website: prescribedspirits.com
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