Friday, June 28, 2013
VIDEO: Behind the Scenes of Raff Distillerie on Treasure Island
Like most San Franciscans, we don’t really make it out much to Treasure Island. I admit it: Inside, I’ve always wished that it were a tropical haven of pirates and free chests of gold. It is actually a man-made island off the Bay Bridge that once served as an airport in 1939, then became a naval base, and now is a growing residential area. But what brought us to Treasure Island was something very different: Raff Distillerie—a local spirits maker of absinthe, gin, and rum.
Well, there’s your treasure right there. So when Carter Raff, the owner of the distillery, invited us to shoot at his site, we just couldn’t resist.
What made the experience even more interesting is that Carter’s distillery inhabits the old Navy brig—that’s the old navy prison. It was fitted with the retro mint green guard room, classic slate holding cells, and high barbed wire fences. Shudder! Sometimes I thought it would make for a better horror flick than a mini-documentary. But an awesome spot for a distillery either way. You certainly don't worry that anyone is breaking in.
It turns out that Carter had an early interest in adult beverages, having gone to school at Sonoma State with the initial aspiration of winemaking. He was able to combine his talents at metalworking to make every still completely from scratch. Unlike many other distillers, this has allowed him to control his product very, very specifically, custom designing every piece for his needs.
It results in some really lovely products. His gin—Bummer and Lazarus Gin, named after San Francisco’s most famous dogs—is quite drinkable with bursts of citrus and less of that drying juniper quality more closely associated with grandpa. His absinthe was also slaved over, diving deep into the history books to replicate what absinthe actually tasted like when it was first popular in France during the 1840s.
To sum up Carter’s story, we’ve produced a video (shown above). I hope you enjoy!