The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2017

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 6 of 133

july 2017  /  the tasting panel  /  5 In the vast sea of spirits brands, from startups to staples, there's one constant—this industry is a fickle one. A company that can remain steadfast and navigate these waters for long-term relevance is a company that is most likely built on principles. One that you may well have heard of has a story that is not well known. It's the legacy of a family that has been distilling for 13 generations, spanning centuries and culminating in a brand that is as innovative as it is grounded in history among the most respected of craft spirits. This is Charbay Distillery, which was one of only a handful of American micro-distilleries in the 1980s. "I started working at my distillery when I was ten," says Master Distiller Marko Karakasevic. "I began at the bottom, cleaning out the still." While this may seem like an odd childhood to the average American, the Karakasevic family had been distilling in Serbia since 1751 and passed down the craft from generation to generation. Marko's father, Miles, 12th-generation Grand Master Distiller, and mother, Susan, brought the family's distilling know-how to the U.S. in the early '60s and built their distillery in 1983 in Mendocino County, CA. In the '90s, as Marko ventured into bars to sell Charbay aperitifs and wines (he was handling most of the sales duties), he couldn't help but notice vodka's prominence, so he told his dad he wanted to branch out. The elder Karakasevic resisted at first, saying that vodka was just ethanol with no flavor. But when Marko tweaked his concept to create flavored vodkas, Miles was convinced. With only a couple of flavored vodkas on the market at that time, Marko set out to become the first American distiller to use real fruit to flavor vodka. He showcased all aspects of the 100-percent hand-picked, tree-ripened fruit—using everything from the oils in the skins to the sweet and vibrant juice. By design, he envisioned vodka with vis- cosity and a rich mouthfeel. Through his recipe, the vodka is distilled only once and cut with the family's proprietary water. The result is literally tasting the fruit in the glass, rather than something that has been "flavored." Charbay Meyer Lemon Vodka hit the market in 1998, and the portfolio has since expanded to include Green Tea, Pomegranate, Ruby Red Grapefruit and Blood Orange. The family also began selling its base unflavored vodka, made CHARBAY'S 13- GENERATION STORY OF CRAFTING AND DISTILLING IS MAKING ITS MARK . . . AGAIN by Emily Coleman PHOTO: CASSANDRA YOUNG Master Distiller Marko Karakasevic and Director of Operations Jenni Karakasevic recently bought Charbay Distillery from Marko's parents, Miles and Susan. The result is literally tasting the fruit in the glass, rather than something that has been "flavored."

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Tasting Panel magazine - July 2017