(St. Helena, CA) October 11, 2013 – CHARBAY® , one of America’s foremost artisanal distilleries, is celebrating its 30th Anniversary with the release of seven (7) new spirits and wines produced over the past 30 years using the family’s classic copper Alambic Charentais Pot Stills.
The collection tells the story of the lifetime work of Charbay’s Founder, 12th generation Grand Master Distiller/Winemaker Miles Karakasevic and Charbay’s current Master Distiller, Marko Karakasevic, and their dedication to distilling and winemaking as a fine art endeavor.
Included in the collection are:
- Charbay Whiskey Release III (distilled from Pilsner- an industry first) – Available now
- Charbay R5 Whiskey Lot 511A (distilled from IPA) – Available now
- Charbay ‘S’ Whiskey (distilled from Stout) – Available Thanksgiving
- Brandy No. 89 (24 years old) – Available now
- Still House Port – Available now
- Distillers’ Port – Release date: Available now
- Charbay Aged Rum (10 years old) – Available Spring 2014
A Classical Start: Charbay Brandy No. 89 (24 years old; $93/750ml; 46% abv.)
Raised in former Yugoslavia, Miles learned the art of distilling by apprenticing in the family’s 12 generation tradition, as well as the science behind it (Bachelors in Science/Enology, University of Belgrade).
Miles and his family launched Charbay in Northern California in 1983, choosing a classic 1000 gallon Alambic Charentais Pot Still imported from France.
“I chose this style of Still because it is the result of 500 years of evolution of Pot Stills,” says Miles. “Its specific shape, the mathematical formulas for the parts of the Still and the 100% handmade copper construction all work synergistically to do one thing: concentrate the flavors of the Distillate.”
Charbay Brandy No. 89 was distilled by Miles in 1989 from Pinot Noir & Sauvignon Blanc and aged in new French oak (Limousin and Never). This is only the second release of brandy in Charbay’s 30 years of distilling brandy. Once asked how Miles knows when a spirit is finished aging, he replied, “When it stops surprising me.”
Vision: Charbay Whiskey III (14 years old; $410/750ml; 66.2% abv – barrel strength)
13th generation Distiller Marko Karakasevic began his distilling career at age 10. He learned the ancient artform of classical spirits distillation from his father over the course of 26 years, bringing his own vision and creativity into the world of spirits. Marko now carries on the family’s legacy as Charbay’s Master Distiller.
In 1999, in the middle of launching Charbay’s flavored vodka collection ( the first on the market made with whole fruit), Miles and Marko asked a question as they drank a favorite microbrewed beer: “What if?”
Soon the father and son team began distilling 20,000 gallons of Lager-style Pilsner beer. Since the Alambic Charentais Pot Still has absolutely no automation, the double-distillation took them 3½ weeks of distilling 24/7 in shifts.
The 22 barrels of Whiskey that resulted are a breakthrough in the whiskey industry: the first distillation of professional, bottle-ready beer into whiskey.
Charbay Whiskey III is the third release from the 1999 batch. It was aged 8 years in new American White Oak (charred to #3 ‘Gator Skin’) and an additional 8 years in neutral vessels so that it could continue evolving without additional oak extraction. Bottled uncut (cask strength) and unfiltered.
Choosing to release the batch in four releases as a collector’s series was yet another element of creative expression: Miles and Marko wanted whiskey aficionados to experience the whiskey’s aging process in stages. The label was designed by Miles’ wife, Susan Karakasevic, co-owner of Charbay. (224 cases/6-pack)
Awaiting ‘the Nod’: Charbay Barrel-Aged Rum (10 years old; $TBD/750ml; barrel-strength)
Charbay’s Barrel-Aged Rum was double-distilled in 2003 fro m Hawaiian sugar cane syrup sourced from Maui. It was the most expensive product Miles and Marko ever distilled (15:1 reduction) – and that was before factoring-in the angel’s share (2-3% annual loss due to evaporation) over 10 years of barrel aging.
Miles and Marko chose sugar cane syrup because they wanted to capture the sugar cane’s pure, real fragrance and flavor – a very different profile than molasses.
Now bottled but awaiting the final ‘Distiller’s Nod’… Anticipated release date: Early Spring 2014
Inspiration: Charbay R5 Whiskey Lot 511A (Aged 29 months; $79/750ml; 49.5% abv.)
Inspired by the results of using bottle-ready beer to make whiskey, Marko decided in 2010 to distill his favorite beer: Racer 5 IPA (Bear Republic Brewery). Its upfront and aromatic hops, malt flavors, great dose of bittering hops and high-quality two-row barley all come through in the Alambic Charentais Pot Still distillation.
The first batch sold out quickly, sending Marko back to the Still in 2011 for a 10-day 24/7 marathon distillation. Aged in French oak for 29 months. Flavor profile: malty, floral, fruity and herbaceous with pronounced lychee and dried papaya. As with all batch-distilled artisanal Spirits, each batch has subtle differences – a trait that Miles and Marko like to honor. (650 cases/6-pack)
Rarity: Charbay Whiskey ‘S’ (Aged 29 months; $140/750ml; 49.5% abv.)
The same year, Marko was highly intrigued by the complexity of Bear Republic Brewery’s Black Stout beer. Its bold, roast caramel malt flavors from over five different malts as well as adjuncts a nd several varieties of hops…a perfect distilling challenge!
Using Charbay’s 7-fraction, double-distillation method to capture the ‘heart’ of each batch is the distiller’s art of balancing water, alcohol and flavor molecules. Marko distilled 6000 gallons into 590 gallons (10:1 reduction) of Whiskey S for aging in aged French oak barrels. Flavor profile: dried apricot, honeysuckle, vanilla, roasted coffee. (650 cases/6-pack)
Making a Home in Napa Valley: Still House Port (7 years old; 20.9% abv; $50/375ml)
For Miles, making wines and spirits are all a natural expression of his creativity. He brought his family to Northern California in the early 1970’s, where he worked as a professional winemaker and distiller before launching Charbay Distillery & Winery in 1983 to continue his family’s 12 generation heritage.
Today, Charbay’s port & aperitif program represents the family’s love of both worlds – winemaking and distilling. Still House Port is a salute to their home and Still House in St. Helena, where Charbay wines are made – as well as the brandy for ports and aperitifs.
Still House Port was made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Syrah that were whole-berry fermented in 1-ton fermenting bins – punched-down four (4) times a day by Miles or Marko – a job they always enjoy since they live on-property.
To arrest the fermentation, Miles and Marko chose their own 4-year-old Syrah Alambic Charentais brandy. The port was aged 7 years in old oak barrels. Using aged brandies, quite uncommon in the port world, allows Charbay to create mellow, flavorful ports with extra dimension. Pairing suggestions: ripe cheeses and roasted nuts.
Two Distillers: Distillers’ Port (7 years old; 18.7% abv; $75/375ml)
“Taste this!” was what Charbay’s co-owner Susan Karakasevic remembers most about the birth of Charbay Distillers’ Port. Whether it’s considered to be named for Miles and Marko’s collaboration, or for the aged Charbay Alambic Charentais Pot Still brandy that brings complexity to it, Charbay Distillers’ Port is rich and full-bodied, with the unmistakable added dimension of the brandy’s flavors.
2006 Late-picked Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were whole-berry fermented in 1-ton fermenting bins and punched-down four (4) times a day by hand. To arrest the fermentation, Miles and Marko chose a 6-year old barrel-aged Charbay Cabernet Franc Alambic Charentais brandy. The port was barrel-aged for 7 years in old French oak barrels. (369 cases)
Reflecting on 30 Years
Charbay has been able to thrive in this incredibly competitive market all these 30 years as a small, family-owned & operated business. (Half of Charbay’s team of 10 are direct family.) The family is committed to creating the finest quality spirits and wines.
As with any artform, true appreciation comes from realizing that each of Charbay’s spirits is a unique creation, in a finite amount, from the artistic expression of the physical hours that its distillers have on this planet. There is no way (or desire!) to put on ‘the software program’ and continuously distill hundreds of thousand of gallons in an Alambic Charentais Pot Still. The family’s goal is simply to bring forth an internal vision: to carve a spirit or a wine out of a liquid ‘state’ into something delicious and memorable.
A man with a chisel and a piece of granite: add vision and skill and it’s easy enough to define that sculptor as an artisan. All that could be said for these truly artisan distillers.
Links to Fact Sheets
Charbay Whiskey Release III (distilled from Pilsner- the first known distillation of bottle-ready beer)
Charbay R5 Whiskey Lot 511A (distilled from IPA)
Charbay ‘S’ Whiskey Lot 211 (distilled from Stout)
Brandy No. 89 (24 years old)
Charbay Aged Rum (10 years old) – awaiting final facts
Charbay is owned and operated by the Karakasevic family. Founder, 12th generation Grand Master Distiller Miles Karakasevic, and his son, Marko, produce award-winning small-batch spirits distilled in their classical Alambic Charentais Pot Still. Their spirits collection includes whiskey, brandy, rum, liqueurs, grappa and flavored vodkas. Their wine collection includes wines, aperitifs and ports made with selections of their 30-year-old library of brandies. Still House tours of their Napa valley winery are available by appointment. Call 707-963-9327.