A collaboration between longtime neighbors in the liquid arts

PASO ROBLES —  Calwise Spirits and Firestone Walker Brewing Company unveiled “Old Tom Big Sur Gin,” — a brewery-inspired riff on the distillery’s signature Big Sur Gin. 

Firestone Walker’s Chief Operating Officer Nick Firestone (left) and Calwise Master Distiller Aaron Bergh (right) tasting their collaborative gin. Contributed Photo

“This was an opportunity to elevate the Big Sur Gin experience with ingredients and input from an iconic California brewery,” said Calwise Master Distiller Aaron Bergh. “Old Tom Big Sur Gin reflects a meeting of the minds, with grapes, grains and botanicals coming together to create a gin like no other.”

Located just a mile from the Calwise Spirits distillery in Paso Robles, Firestone Walker proved to be a fitting partner when Bergh came knocking. 

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“Aaron is our neighbor and we’ve always admired his creations, so it was a natural collaboration,” said Firestone Walker’s Chief Operating Officer Nick Firestone. “We’ve been working with spirits barrels for nearly 20 years to create our barrel-aged strong ales, and we see this as an extension of that tradition.”

In addition to the main Old Tom Big Sur Gin, Calwise also released a separate “Rested in Oak” edition, which was matured for three months in American oak barrels inherited from Firestone Walker’s Double Barrel fermentation program. The moniker “Old Tom” is a nod to the original 18th century British gins known by that name, and to the English heritage of brewery co-founder David Walker.

Both editions of the gin are now available at the Calwise Distillery in Paso Robles and online at 

CalwiseSpirits.com. 

Flavors of California

To help create “Old Tom” Big Sur Gin, Firestone Walker generated a mash of traditional brewing grains with a complement of wine grape juice, all fermented with native yeast and bacteria. This base was then distilled by Calwise, imparting a unique imprint into the flavor profile of the original Big Sur Gin. 

Then, in the established Big Sur Gin fashion, Bergh infused the gin with organic wild herbs that are largely native to California’s iconic Big Sur coastline, including white sage, yerba santa, bay, fennel and elderberry as well as the essential juniper. 

“We also enhanced the traditional recipe by including botanicals such as coriander and orange peel, which were suggested by Brewmaster Matt Brynildson,” Bergh said. “We added rose petal as an ode to David Walker’s British roots.”

Bergh worked with Brewmaster Matt Brynildson, Sensory Research Analyst Craig Thomas and the Firestone Walker brewing team to create the mash, acquire the right barrels and guide both versions of Old Tom Big Sur Gin to fruition. 

The resulting gins provide both common and contrasting qualities. The main version of “Old Tom” Big Sur gin is fragrant and elegant, while the version matured in DBA barrels has a richer, almost whiskey-like color and taste.