We’ve all dreamed it at one time or another. We’ll quit our dreary jobs, move to the country, start a business, and spend the rest of our days pursing our passions, our partner at our side. But while everybody fantasizes, few of us actually bite the bullet and do it.
Josh Opatz and Sarah Fiske, however, had the chutzpah to actually transform that common daydream into reality. The husband and wife duo behind Young & Yonder Spirits, an artisan craft distillery in downtown Healdsburg, California, first got into spirits as a hobby. Quickly, they realized their interest went far beyond the occasional night and weekend dabble. After many years of debate, they finally decided to take the plunge and launched their company in 2013.
We love a good entrepreneur story, so we were excited to share a bottle of Young & Yonder’s delicious navy strength H.O.B.S. Gin with gin club members this summer. H.O.B.S. stands for “Harbor of Broken Souls,” a nod to the longstanding relationship between naval life and gin as well as the glory and peril of the life of a sailor. Featuring eight different botanicals, including lemon peel, hibiscus, bay leaf, and, of course, juniper, this beautifully balanced modern gin is bottled at a cocktail-friendly 100 proof, making it perfect for warm weather long drinks like Gin and Tonics.
We caught up with the folks over at Young & Yonder to hear more about how the company got started, how they developed the recipe for H.O.B.S. Gin, and why Healdsburg is the perfect place to be.
First, we’d love to hear more about how Young & Yonder got its start. What inspired you to launch the business?
The company started in pursuit of the American dream. The founders, Josh and Sarah, were both working in San Francisco for large companies and did some home brewing on the weekends. They started to dive more into the opportunities in beverage alcohol, and became particularly excited about craft distilled spirits. They rented a small warehouse and licensed it so they could tinker and develop recipes for their eventual craft distillery. After three years of nights and weekends work on top of their jobs, they decided to pursue it full time. They packed up their apartment in San Francisco, left their jobs, and moved up to Sonoma County, where they operate the distillery full-time. The name Young & Yonder Spirits is meant to describe Josh and Sarah’s journey of being young and going yonder to pursue their dreams.
Why Healdsburg? How does that area influence your products?
Josh, one of the founders, grew up in Healdsburg, and was aware of its high potential for a craft distillery location. Although the region is known for world class wines, Young & Yonder Spirits is trying to expand the region’s reputation beyond wine and into high quality distilled spirits.
Tell us a little bit about how the H.O.B.S. Gin formula got created. How did you decide on this particular blend of botanicals? Is there anything special about how they’re infused into the spirit?
The H.O.B.S. gin formula took a year and a half of lab work to figure out and lock down. We knew that we wanted to preserve the essence of gin by keeping juniper as the backbone of the spirit, but also balance that juniper with citrus, floral, and spice—eight botanicals all in all. What makes this gin special is the method of direct maceration, or cooking the botanicals with the alcohol during distillation. We have stills designed to handle this method of distillation.
You mention H.O.B.S. is a tribute to the relationship between gin and the navy. What’s that all about?
Yes, we wanted to use the label as an education tool for how gin contributed to naval history in England. Gin has been provisioned on ships for hundreds of years, but not many people think of gin as a maritime spirit (usually reserved for rum). The design of the label is intended to depict the life of a sailor and is also meant to be a little fun and mystical as well.
Any favorite ways to enjoy H.O.B.S. gin?
H.O.B.S. gin makes a lot of great cocktails, anything from a gin and tonic (best with Mediterranean tonic from Fever Tree) to a bee’s knees, to a straight up martini with a lemon twist. It’s got a lot of flavor, but that’s what makes it great for gin lovers to enjoy as it stands up in mixers and by itself.
What else should Taster’s Club members know about Young & Yonder?
We are a small batch, family-owned and operated craft distillery operated by a husband and wife team. We produce and hand bottle everything at our Sonoma County location and are open to the public four days a week. We appreciate your support of our small family business. Also, H.O.B.S. gin has won numerous awards this year, including a gold medal from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and a gold medal from the SIP awards.