What defines a mad scientist, one could say is his passion for his craft. In this case, Abe Stevens is the chemist behind Humboldt Distillery and mad about distilling organic spirits in the small town of Fortuna, California. With a degree in chemistry and biochemistry, this fifth generation Humboldt county proprietor is concocting award-winning craft spirits.

Abe founded his distilling playground in 2012 after several years of working in the pharmaceutical industry. He was ready to take a break and contemplate where he was headed next. He says it’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment he made a decision, “It was a more gradual process of researching the spirits industry and opportunity in Humboldt, but it was after our daughter was born that we felt a permanent relocation back to Humboldt County would make sense, as it’s a beautiful area and a great community to settle down in.”

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His skills as a chemist impact each Humboldt Distillery product. Abe says he takes a practical approach to their product development, “Some producers rely on tradition, and sometimes superstition, to guide them, but I prefer to know exactly how and why each process works so that I can improve upon them. I’m not saying anyone’s method is better or worse, but our own techniques help us ensure we provide consistently high quality products.”

Not only inspired by the pristine location within which they are produced, Humboldt Distillery also sources all water from watersheds that originate in the county’s ancient redwood forests. Small-batch and crafted from domestic, sustainably farmed ingredients, Humboldt Distillery offers an an array of exceptional liquors.

I was interested to know if this was Abe’s first attempt at crafting spirits, perhaps he got frisky in chem lab during his college years. He says no, “I was definitely learning about the science of distillation, at least in theory, but in practice I was probably more often evaluating samples of finished spirits.”

Chemist Plays Tournament Poker

There is more than meets the eye with this distilling scientist, he spent time as a tournament poker. Cards and chemistry seem to mix well and it prepared him for his work as an entrepreneur. He said, “Thinking analytically about the problems and opportunities you’re presented has been a big part of achieving success in both endeavors.” He often played poker as a hobby, as it was legal in California. “It’s considered a game of skill rather than a game of chance. I’d been finding that my hobby was becoming fairly lucrative, so I started playing full time. While it is a game of skill, there is still a bit of luck involved and I never did get the cards needed to win one of those multi-million dollar prizes you see on TV, but it still paid the bills and I often found the better action was in the side games. The time at the tables definitely taught me a lot about taking calculated risks, and has been a big asset in starting this new business.”

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Humboldt Community

It is evident how important the local Humboldt county community means to Abe and the impact his business is having on the the local economy. He says, “Like many local businesses, we provide jobs for a number of employees. But we’re also capturing a bit of the Humboldt County spirit in a bottle that we ship out of the area bringing in new funds into the local economy from abroad.”

Abe most appreciates seeing his customers, “enjoying a product we worked so hard to make, and learning about all the interesting drinks that people are coming up with.”

With the holidays upon us you’ll find Abe sipping on Humboldt Distillery’s Organic Spiced rum in seasonal cocktails. If he had to pick an overall favorite, he says his Organic Vodka is hard to beat when it comes to both its high quality and convenience, “It’s such a clean spirit that you can mix it with just about anything.” I’ve tasted the Organic Vodka and concur with his assessment. It a nice smooth mixer. Quite pleasant. He’s shared a few of their cocktail recipes below.

Favorites, Books, Next Steps, etc.

Cocktail and Food Pairing

He says he normally doesn’t start his day with a drink, “…but on those special occasions it’s hard to argue with how well a Bloody Mary pairs with bacon and eggs.”

Band or type of music

Abe has a strong opinion on this topic. “That’s like asking someone to name their favorite child. I can say that here in Humboldt County everyone will have their own individual tastes, but you might have a hard time finding anyone that doesn’t at least appreciate reggae.”

Holiday Memory

Nintendo is a winner! “I have plenty of fond childhood memories of Christmas presents, especially the Nintendo I got from my grandma, but in more recent years I’ve really appreciated just the time spent with family.”

Book on Abe’s Bedside Table

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which I just finished and was so much better than the movie version. Next I’m about to start How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan.

Abe Defines Luxury…

Something to be appreciated that stands out from our normal routine.

Next Steps for Humboldt Distillery

“We’ve got a little bit of whiskey and apple brandy in our pipeline, which will be released in the near future, but but most of our future efforts are likely going to be focused on introducing our products to people as we expand to new regions beyond Humboldt and California.”

Products

Humboldt Distillery’s Organic Vodka; Rated #6 of California’s premium vodkas and awarded 90 points by Wine Enthusiast, this spirit is uniquely sugarcane based making it 100% gluten-free and certified organic.

Humboldt Distillery’s Organic Rum; a light-bodied and easy drinking gold rum, with aromatic hints of caramel and toffee.

Organic Spiced Rum; Hints of vanilla, allspice and fruit are perfect for mixing into hot holiday ciders or as a delicious topper for a luxurious eggnog.

Humboldt’s Finest; a Vodka infused with locally grown Cannabis Sativa and a Double Gold Medal Winner in San Francisco’s 2017 World Spirits Competition. Rich with terpenes and an unparalleled botanical flavor, Humboldt’s Finest makes for a special addition to anyone’s bar collection.

Cocktail Recipes

Spiced Rum Sour

Humboldt distillery

1.5 oz Humboldt Distillery Organic Spiced Rum

1 oz fresh orange juice

.75 oz holiday spice syrup (recipe follows)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until very cold, about 20 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with grated fresh nutmeg or cinnamon.

Holiday Spice Syrup

1 c. sugar

1 c. water

4 whole star anise

1 tsp cloves

.5 tsp fennel seeds

1 cinnamon stick, crushed into bark shards

Combine 1 c. sugar, 1 c. water, 4 whole star anise, 1 tsp cloves, .5 tsp fennel seeds, and 1 cinnamon stick, crushed into bark shards. Stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to steep for at least 2 hours, ideally 4+ hours (or overnight!). Strain and refrigerate.

Redwood Joe

Humboldt Distillery

1.5 oz Humboldt Distillery Organic Vodka

2 oz cold brew or chilled espresso

.75 oz cinnamon-orange syrup (recipe follows)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until very cold, about 20 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with grated fresh nutmeg or cinnamon.

Cinnamon-Orange Syrup

1 c. sugar

1 c. water

Peel and juice of one orange

1 cinnamon stick, crushed into bark shards

Combine sugar, water, orange peel and juice, cinnamon stick, crushed into bark shards. Stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and allow the orange and cinnamon to steep for at least 2 hours, ideally 4+ hours (or overnight!). Strain and refrigerate.

And if mixology just isn’t your thing, simply mix Humboldt Distillery’s Organic Spiced Rum with your favorite carton of eggnog!

humbolt distillery rum and egg nog