Charbay Distillery2023-01-24T17:01:53-08:00

Like Our Distillery

Our Alambic Pot Still is an Original

In 1983 Charbay opened in Ukiah, California – No. 177 distillery in America. Since then over 2000 distilleries have come and some have gone. We’re still here, an original, and into our 13th generation of distilling history. 

Our Alambic Pot Still is the Heart of Our Family Distillery

We distill with an Alambic pot still, also known as a Charentais still. It was handmade to our specifications by the Prulho family, a long-established maker of pot stills chosen by some of the best distillers in the Cognac region. It’s a 660-gallon work of art, made of only 2 pure red copper plates. It’s the heart of our distillery, a part of our family, defining us as genuine craft distillers. And with very few in existence in the US, it makes us and the spirits we create unique. 

Distilling our way takes time but so it should

Distilling with an Alambic pot still is not for everyone. It’s an art form that takes years of practice and a huge dose of patience. There’s no automation, no shortcuts, no set it and forget it. But there is a reason we chose and will always prize the extremely slow, traditional method over others. It allows us to be precise and selective. We double-distill with our Alambic pot still, the first run to create the body of the distillate, the second run to fill that body with flavor. Distilling slowly, waiting for the right moment, we select only the best parts of the flavor of the entire run as your finished product. That’s the difference you can taste. We’re not trying to be super efficient. We’re taking our time to make awesome.

Why we use an Alambic pot still

We like a whiskey with a full flavor and a smooth finish. Don’t you? This is why we choose to distill with an Alambic pot still. A pot still is run on a batch by batch process, unlike a column still which is a continuous process. This allows us to create a complex flavor profile, through a double-distillation. The first run is for building the body of the distillate. The second run is to fill that body with the best parts of the entire run, which becomes your finished product. It takes years of experience to know what to look for, an abundance of patience to wait for the crucial moment to make the best cuts, and intense concentration for multiple days straight to get the fullness of flavor you’ll be able to feel. It’s so worth it!

“I like to showcase the flavor, develop the body, and let the finish speak for itself”. – Marko

Questions We’re Often Asked

What are the different types of stills used by distilleries?2022-11-10T21:15:52-08:00

Essentially there are two types – the pot still and the column still. The pot still, the original distilling equipment, is considered the best still to this day for producing full flavored spirits. It’s specifically designed to concentrate flavors. This is why we use a traditional Alambic pot still for our whiskey, brandy and liqueurs.  However a column still cooks out the flavors and distills to a higher proof, making it better suited for a clean, crisp taste experience. We distill our vodka to meet your expectations for a smooth, well-rounded, pure taste from the beginning.

Why we use an Alambic pot still2022-11-10T21:14:02-08:00

We like a whiskey with a full flavor and a smooth finish. Don’t you? This is why we choose to distill with a copper Alambic pot still. A pot still is run on a batch by batch process, unlike a column still which is a continuous process. This allows us to create a complex flavor profile, through a double-distillation. The first run is for building the body of the distillate. The second run is to fill that body with the best parts of the entire run, which becomes your finished product. It takes years of experience to know what to look for, an abundance of patience to wait for the crucial moment to make the best cuts, and intense concentration for multiple days straight to get the fullness of flavor you’ll be able to feel. It’s so worth it!

In the words of Marko –

“I like to showcase the flavor, develop the body, and let the finish speak for itself.” 

What does ‘making the cut’ mean in distilling?2022-11-13T16:33:00-08:00

‘Making the cut’ refers to the process of switching tanks. Our Alambic pot still has three tank attachments, designed to capture different parts of the run. While running the pot still, which could be continuously for 10 days, there are certain points in the process when you switch from tank to tank. 

The first part of the run is called the ‘heads’. It’s the highest alcohol. You wouldn’t want to drink this straight but you want to capture pieces of it, for adding complexity to the finished product.

The second part is called the ‘hearts’. These are the middle notes and are the most balanced.

The third and last part is called the ‘tails’. These are the lower notes and thicker in texture. Just like the heads, you don’t want a lot of tails, but you want just enough for the right level of texture to your finished product.

How do you determine when to ‘make the cut’? The critical decision point is driven by taste and smell. This is the art form of distilling that you can’t learn in a text book. Only a trained palate and nose can taste or smell anything over 100 proof, let alone create a masterpiece of deliciousness. 

What does full barrel strength mean?2022-09-24T22:02:17-07:00

Some of our spirits are released at full barrel strength because we want you to feel like you’re drinking out of the barrel with us. It also gives you more control. If you want it diluted, then add ice or water as you like. We’d prefer you decide on the dilution, rather than we decide for you.

Is it Alembic or Alambic?2023-01-20T02:23:15-08:00

Either is correct. It’s possible the word is derived from the Arabic al-anbīq – a combination of the Arabic article al with the Greek word ambikos, meaning bowlThe term was later adapted to Latin as alembicum, to be slightly changed in the 14th Century to middle French as alambic. Whether you use Alembic or Alambic, what we know from experience is that its the best pot still for distilling flavorful spirits.

charbay distillery elamebic pot still for making top shelf whiskey and brandy
Medal plaque on the alembic pot still made by the Pruhlo family for Charbay
Charbay alembic pot still used to make R5 whiskey with barrels in the background
Marko Karakasevic, master distiller at Charbay, operating the alambic pot still
Marko peering behind the alambic copper pot still in the charbay distillery
Marko Karakasevic at the furnace of the alambic pot still
Collection of spirits handcrafted by Charbay in the distillery
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