Ivar Aass has been in the booze business for years. The Norway native worked for a wine importer and distributor in New York after college, and before he began distilling for a living, he dabbled in making moonshine and whiskey in his own kitchen.
His priority when he arrived in Charlottesville was to produce delicious single-malt whiskey, and after a couple years of saving, planning, prepping and building out, Spirit Lab Distilling is nearly ready to make its debut. Located at 1117 E. Market St., it’s a bare-bones operation, with exposed cinder-block walls, a closet lined with old wine barrels and no formal tasting room. But the 300-liter handmade copper pot still from Spain is awfully pretty, and Aass says that’s all he needs for now.
The bad news is, the whiskey isn’t on the market yet. The good news is, it will be soon. One of his large Virginia port-style wine barrels is full of a product he says will be ready within a couple of months. What’s in there now is whiskey, for sure—at about 47 percent alcohol it’s malty and spicy, with some sweetness and hints of dried fruit—but, as booze tends to do, it will age and mature with time. Aass will use the solera system, meaning he’ll never empty a barrel entirely before starting a new batch.
“Basically it’s going to slowly get older and older,” he says of his product. “My goal is to make a better whiskey with every batch, and it’s going to taste a little different every time.”
As for how you can get your hands on a bottle, that’s yet to be determined. Aass doesn’t plan to open a tasting room anytime soon, and he expects production will be too small to hit ABC shelves. Once the single-malt is bottled, Aass says he’ll probably distribute through ABC’s special order system. Keep an eye on the Spirit Lab Distilling Facebook page for details.
Drink and be healthy
Boozing doesn’t always have to be associated with self-indulgence. At least, not unhealthy self-indulgence. Early Mountain Vineyards is now offering a Wine and Wellness event on the first Wednesday of the month through the spring. Each $20 evening session involves a guided hour of yoga followed by an hour-long wellness discussion accompanied by a glass of wine.
For more information or to buy tickets, check out Early Mountain’s website or Facebook page.
Mimocider?…Back by popular demand, the guys from Potter’s Craft Cider will set up shop at Ix Art Park on Saturdays this spring beginning at 11am. They’ll pour the full lineup of locally made dry ciders plus fresh-squeezed cider mimosas. Korean is coming…We don’t have much to report on this front, but wanted to give you a heads up that a Korean barbecue joint is on the horizon for West Main Street, in the space next to Ben Around Tattoos. We’ll keep you posted. For hire…And a block away, there’s a “now hiring” sign outside the former Horse & Hound spot, which closed in September. No confirmation yet on what’s moving in, but we’re crossing our fingers for something delicious.