Three Distillers
One legacy

Founder Jörg Rupf

When Jörg Rupf founded St. George Spirits in 1982, there was no such thing as “craft distilling” in America.

In 1982, there were fewer than 20 distilleries in the United States. Today there are more than 2,000. When Jörg ran his first batch of eau de vie on his 65-gallon pot still, he didn’t just start St. George Spirits, he started a movement. In the years that followed, he also helped countless other distillers launch their own operations. Jörg’s legacy—creating spirits of uncompromising quality while helping blaze the trail for artisan distillers—lives on in everything we do.

Photo: Alex Zyuzikov

Master Distiller Lance Winters

When Lance Winters applied for a job at St. George back in 1996, his resume was a bottle of whiskey he’d distilled in his garage.

Lance’s creative vision built on Jörg’s mastery of technique to create spirits that were not only the first of their kind, but so well made that they have since become landmarks in American artisan distilling.

Photo: Alex Zyuzikov

Head Distiller Dave Smith

Dave Smith was focused on grad school when he took a day job at St. George. Now he’s a master of the fine art of distilling.

Dave’s work as a distiller has received accolades from the likes of the San Francisco Business Times and GQ magazine, but Lance might have paid him the highest compliment when he said “Dave took our single malt, which was good, and turned it great.” Dave sees spirits like a screenplay; they need bartenders and drinkers to take the role of directors and actors in order to bring them to life.

Photo: Alex Zyuzikov

A Common Thread

Eau de vie is French for “water of life,” and the philosophy behind it inspires every spirit we make.

Imagine cramming 30 pounds of fruit into one 750ml bottle; that’s eau de vie. At its best, eau de vie captures all the flavor and aroma of fruit picked at its peak, then concentrates them until the intensity is at 11. Jörg perfected the process so well, his eau de vie beat out Europe’s top producers in the prestigious Destillata blind tasting. Today, whether we’re making whiskey, gin, vodka, or something completely off-the-wall, we approach every spirit with the mindset of an eau de vie distiller, knowing that we need to start with the best raw materials to maximize the flavor we get into the bottle, and into your glass.

The St. George Spirits timeline

St. George Spirits is born.

Jörg Rupf establishes St. George Spirits, the first small American distillery since Prohibition. He did more than just start St. George Spirits, he helped many others start their own distilleries: Clear Creek, Bonnie Doon, Westford Hill, and Cap Rock Distilling, just to name a few.

Jörg Rupf pioneers the American craft spirits movement.

Drawing inspiration from Old World distilling methodologies he learned from his family growing up in the Black Forest, Jörg focused on crafting brandy from California fruit utilizing New World fermentation techniques.

Great spirits start with the right infrastructure.

After spending time in the Navy as well as retiring from the phone company, Bill Mannshardt comes aboard, first as a volunteer and then as Jörg’s first official hire. Bill stays on for 12 years, helping create the infrastructure that we still use today.

Besting the competition.

St. George Poire William (pear brandy) wins the prestigious Destillata blind tasting in Austria, edging out hundreds of Old World producers. Jörg’s tenacity and vision finally pay off.

Lance Winters' whiskey resume.

Lance Winters, a former nuclear scientist and brewer shows up at St. George Spirits, with a bottle of homemade whiskey as his resume.

After 12 years of hard work at the distillery, Bill spots his exit strategy and hands over the reins to Lance.

A new chapter begins.

After extensive experimentation with different mash bills, Lance and Jörg put their first single malt whiskey into barrel.

Lot 1 of St. George Single Malt Whiskey is released.

No one quite knows what to make of our “American Scotch.” So what do we do? Make more.

Hangar One

Lance and Jörg launch the Hangar One line of vodkas.

St. George Spirits moves.

St. George Spirits moves into its current location on the Alameda Naval Air Station. Jörg and Lance wonder how they'll ever fill a 65,000-square-foot airplane hangar. (It’s full now!)

Dave Smith comes aboard.

Upon realizing that he was spending most of his teaching salary on alcohol, Dave Smith eliminates the middleman and joins the St. George distilling team.

Our absinthe makes history.

We release St. George Absinthe Verte, the first legal American absinthe since the U.S. ban on absinthe was instated in 1912. Helicopters circle overhead, people line up around the distillery, and every bottle is sold within a few hours.

Hecho en Alameda

Agua Azul (made from 100% blue agave) is released and becomes an instant collector’s item. It was such a pain in the ass to make that we swore we’d never do it again. (We have. We never learn.)

Lance gets married at the distillery.

Jörg plays “La Vie en Rose” on violin and Dave officiates from The Whiskey Bible.

A pivotal year

The Hangar One brand is sold.

Agua Libre, an agricole-style rum made from California sugarcane, is released.

After 28 years at the helm of the distillery, Jörg retires. Lance becomes master distiller, Dave becomes head distiller.

B&E and our three gins are released.

St. George Botanivore, Terroir, and Dry Rye Gin are released.

Lance and Dave go barrel thieving at some of their favorite Kentucky bourbon distilleries. After Dave spends several months cataloguing and blending the plunder, Breaking & Entering Bourbon is released.

30th Anniversary

We celebrate our 30th anniversary, marking three decades as an American craft spirits pioneer.


St. George Dry Rye Reposado Gin is released.

Our flagship line of brandies and liqueurs is re-released under the St. George banner.

The hits keep coming...

More new releases: St. George NOLA Coffee Liqueur, California Reserve Apple Brandy, and California Reserve Agricole Rum hit the market.

Vodka, vodka, vodka

We release three new vodkas: St. George All Purpose Vodka, Green Chile Vodka, and California Citrus Vodka.

New frontiers

We release our California-inspired Bruto Americano aperitivo. Two-thirds of all our future Negronis are homegrown.

Baller Single Malt Whiskey—our California take on the Japanese spin on Scotch whisky—is released as a Bay Area exclusive before then going global.

A groundbreaking new whiskey category.

Breaking & Entering American Whiskey is released, building on the legacy of the original B&E release with a blend of bourbon and rye that head distiller Dave Smith sourced and then blended with some of our own California malt whiskey.

Celebrating our 40th anniversary!

Forty years at the vanguard of American spirits down, many more to go.

"Best craft whiskey of the year"

- Thrillist

"Craft whiskey of the year"

- Whisky Advocate

"One of the most distinctive gins made in America"

- GQ (Terroir)

Featured Products

Terroir Gin

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Botanivore Gin

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NOLA Coffee Liqueur

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Green Chile Vodka

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Spiced Pear Liqueur

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Photo: Alex Zyuzikov

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We are a diverse team with a passion for artisan spirits and for helping each other elevate our craft. If that sounds like you, please get in touch.

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