Kalifornication

If you want to find Kalifornia Distilleries, just look for the long line of Girl Scouts and their mothers. Ok, I can explain. Kalifornia Distilleries sits in the back of a nondescript office park in Temecula, CA. Around the corner is the local Girl Scouts headquarters. My visit was on the last day these little hustlers in training could return their unsold boxes of cookies. Mystery solved.

Billy Tiller is proud of his whiskey-making heritage. He traces it back to at least 1780, when his ancestors left Cork, Ireland for the less-famished shores of Virginia. The Navy brought Billy's father, plain old Bill, out to San Diego. When Bill retired, and shortly after Billy took early leave from the Sheriff's Department, they decided to get back to their family's roots and start cooking whiskey.

Billy greets me in the minimally-decorated tasting room and takes me back to the stills. He and his dad's service animals - a pair of lunking, loving German Shepherds named Cricket and Chloe- stand guard. Billy explains they're in the process of setting up a second, larger still, while a new facility in Colton, with four stills, should come online later in the year. Business is good.

I can see why. Kalifornia offers vodka, corn whiskey and bourbon. But the standouts for me were their flavored moonshines, in peach and lemonade. These are bright, vivid flavors, made with natural juice and very little extra sugar (I'm told). Drinkers be careful. These moonshines are still 22.5% alcohol, but taste of pure sunshine. The women sitting next to me at the tasting bar were slugging them back in tumblers full of ice - like just a couple of moms taking a break from yard work. I didn't want to stick around to see what would happen.

The vodka is made from Hawaiian sugarcane and was very mellow. The plain moonshine actually has less bite than the bourbon.  Billy and his father are clearly sticklers for quality. They run off a half gallon at a time, so they can constantly taste and check. The lengths they go to in filtering water are impressive (pressurized charcoal!). So I'm surprised by neither the deliciousness of the final product nor the growing demand.  Maybe they'll have mothers (sans Scout daughters) lining up very soon!

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