When Ivar Aass moved to Charlottesville six years ago, he had one purpose in mind: distill high quality spirits. And at Spirit Lab Distilling, the distillery he runs with his wife, he does just that. From a bare bones warehouse facility on 6th St. SE, Aass distills tiny batches of spirits that already have a following not just here in Charlottesville, but beyond. With characteristics of both Scotch and traditional American whiskey, for example, his flagship Single Malt Whiskey forges a new style: American Single Malt. Bottles of it and other creations have earned spots in the bars of acclaimed D.C. restaurants like The Dabney and Rose’s Luxury.
As much as Aass loves distilling, though, he has fallen hard for another crush during his time here: Charlottesville itself. In 2012, Aass and his wife had grown weary of life in New York, and were ready for a change. At the suggestion of a friend, they visited Charlottesville. After just a weekend here, Aass and his wife were smitten. So smitten that they signed a lease two weeks later and have been here ever since. “I am continually blown away by how awesome Charlottesville is,” says Aass, citing a combination of small town benefits with the cultural amenities of a big city. The “coolest part,” Aass says, is how nice everyone is. “It’s kind of easy to be a nice person in Charlottesville,” Aass says.
His latest spirit, then, is a tribute to Charlottesville: a bitter apertivo called Charli, similar to Campari. [To learn more about this new homage to Charlottesville, read on at The Charlottesville 29.]