A review of:
Adventurous Stills – Tempe, AZ
Located at 2125 E 5th St, #102, Tempe, AZ 85281
Open Fri 5p-8p; Sat 2p-7p
Three Wells Distilling Company – Tucson, AZ
Located at 3780 E 44th St, #120, Tucson, AZ 85713
Open Sat 5p-8p
I’ve been writing about Arizona craft beer and wine for just under three years now and found enormous success in a very short time. Most people would be happy with my level of fame and coast on that early success without innovating until they die, Kurt Cobain style. But I decided to instead explore a completely different realm of the Arizona booze scene: local spirits.
As of this writing Arizona has 22 licensed distilleries and 14 of them are fully in production. The spirits scene in this state is young and full of small business owners with a lot of passion, big dreams and a do-or-die attitude that forces them to learn about the industry as they go. And I noticed all of these exact same qualities back when I was talking to craft beer brewers in the early days of starting my blog.
See, back when I decided to start this endeavor I made a list of all the microbreweries in the state. There were 54 at the time. That list has since grown to over 90 while still accounting for the places that have closed along the way. I’ve seen the craft beer scene explode in less than half a decade. I remember sitting in the tiny Pueblo Vida Brewing Co. taproom a week or two after they opened their doors three years ago. And now Pueblo Vida’s monthly, small batch can releases are so popular that people will drive down all the way from Phoenix and walk out with over 30 four-packs of their beer at once. I know this for a fact. I’ve seen it happen. You can get your dick sucked for a can of Pueblo Vida out in Phoenix, bruh.
I felt the excitement and growing pains of a new business while talking to one of the partners at Adventurous Stills, a craft distillery in Tempe. After two years in the making this operation officially opened their doors in January of 2017 and they built their stills (and pretty much all their equipment) by hand.
They’re only open two days out of the week and offer guided tours of their production facility while the bartender pours sips of their bottled spirits and mixes up some killer drinks from their cocktail menu. That last part was a nice surprise. I expected to just sit and sip straight glasses of my favorite spirits but I ended up having the option of drinking an Old Fashioned, a Mule and a Mojito, among a bunch of other things.
Before that, though, I took a small sip of every bottled spirit the place had to offer. There was vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, bourbon (which is American whiskey specifically made from at least 51% corn) and even moonshine. The Adventurous Stills moonshine was my favorite. It was smooth and had a nice chocolate-y taste to it and it was much better than the toilet moonshine that my Cousin Chico learned to make while he was in prison, which had more of a lighter fluid-y, butt cheek-y undertone.
I was impressed by the quality of spirits that such a young distillery was putting out and I admired their hustle at trying to get their bottles sold at local bars all across the state.
I wanted to continue learning more about these businesses so I headed to Tucson and met with the owners of Three Wells Distilling. This place was incorporated back in 2013 and they released their first product two years later. Like Adventurous Stills they also have a cocktail menu but their business hours are even shorter. The taproom is only open on Saturday evenings but they’ll give tours and tastings throughout the week by appointment.
I sampled the entire lineup of bottles that Three Wells offered. They had a vodka and two styles of gin that were all made with water obtained right here in Arizona. These spirits were great but I always have trouble sipping gin because I used to love gin martinis until one night when I had too many and I ended up giving face birth to what felt like an entire juniper tree. I powered through though because I’m a goddamn professional and I take this job seriously!
There was also an agave spirit made in the style of tequila that can’t legally be called tequila because in order to use that label it has to come from the Mexican region named Tequila. But Three Wells did a fine job with their version of this drink.
And finally there was a spirit made from distilled prickly pear fruit that didn’t officially have a name. It wasn’t whiskey, it wasn’t rum and it wouldn’t fit any other spirit category that already existed. It was a sweet drink that tasted like a hybrid between rum and brandy but was something all its own. The preferred nomenclature for this spirit was a “Sonora.” And they offered three different versions: The Sonora Silver, Sonora Copper and Sonora Gold, each of which was barrel aged longer than its predecessor.
Three Wells Distilling focused on putting Arizona in a bottle and so far they’ve succeeded.
Talking to these craft distillers made me feel like I was going back to basics. I forgot all about my fame, fortune and easy access to drugs and hookers (both alive and dearly departed) that I was mired in since I started blogging. I flashed back to that skinny Mexican from over three years ago with amazing hair and a suit jacket that would actually fucking button over his flat stomach. I felt the excitement of a young industry in Arizona that was set to blow up just like craft beer did only about 48 months ago.
And it’s time the craft spirit scene in Arizona gets our love and support. If we’re dedicated to drinking local then we should include our friends in the distilling industry as well because, like microbreweries, these are little guys fighting against giants like Captain Morgan. And I’m done with drinking Captain Morgan. That asshole has scurvy and probably a ton of syphilis.
So when you go to a cocktail bar and order an Old Fashioned, martini, whiskey sour or whatever the hell you drink make sure you ask the bartender if they can make the drink with local spirits.
Yes, you’ll sound like a pretentious dipshit and you’ll get made fun of for being a snooty cock…but didn’t that happen to us back when we asked for the one microbrew on tap at a college bar? Hell, I’m all about the craft beer scene and I still hate any guy who walks in to a brewery and immediately asks for their “haziest IPA.”
We’re on the verge of something big here in Arizona with the growing craft spirit scene. Sure, this young industry has its own learning curve and not every distillery will survive – that’s just the nature of the beast. But it’s our job to at least give our friends and neighbors a chance to prove themselves. We’ve done it before. And that became the Arizona craft beer scene that we all know and love.
So always remember: Drink hard. Drink often. Drink local.