Farm to table sees a new twist with Corbin Cash, the distillery that takes sweet potatoes grown in local fields and turns them into spirits.
Founder, CEO and Master Distiller Dave Souza and generations of his family have been farming since 1917 and have built the Corbin Cash Distillery to bring premium spirits that are handcrafted and harvested directly from the soil on their farm in the 209 to your next celebration.
Souza explained that the crop rotation has been ideal for farming and distilling the sweet potatoes and the Merced rye along with the sandy soil and dry temperatures to create unparalleled spirits in the 209.
Currently Corbin Cash, named after Souza’s son, has five premium spirits: Sweet Potato Vodka, Western Dry Gin, Merced Rye Whiskey, Blended Whiskey, and a Sweet Potato Liqueur. They also have a special 1917 single barrel aged Merced Rye Whiskey that is a guest favorite and has been added to the lineup.
The Sweet Potato Vodka was launched in 2013, their first Rye Whiskey in 2014, the Sweet Potato Liqueur, Gin and Blended Whiskey was produced in 2015. Before the distillery opened in 2019, they were sold at 140 BevMo stores across California.
“This was the a-ha! moment when we could sell bottles out of here and do the direct to consumer right here and build our brand,” said Souza. “We did well. We did a lot better than I thought we would. We were supported by a lot of people. I think being an outdoor venue like we are, it has helped us. If we were stuck indoors we would not have been so well off.”
Not only can you enjoy cocktails at the distillery in the tasting room but they have a store and an outdoor area where they hosted several events before COVID hit. With the seemingly ever-changing regulations and the resulting inconsistencies affecting businesses throughout the 209, Corbin Cash remains positive and thankful. They abide by all the safety guidelines and follow the latest rules but also do what they can to stay in business. Food trucks are a staple out at Corbin Cash and there are plans to add a pizza oven to the kitchen.
Along with the premium spirits that can be sampled on the spirit boards they also offer signature cocktails. Some of the guest favorites that can be savored at the tasting room are the Sweet Potato Vodka that has a sweet essence that is smooth and can be enjoyed on the rocks or in a cocktail like the Pomegranate Paloma that has Elderflower Liqueur, Pomegranate syrup, fresh squeezed lime topped with grapefruit soda.
Gin may not be at the top of your list to try but the Corbin Cash Western Dry Gin is a must. The floral aromas hit your nose and the infused blend of five botanicals hits your lips, giving your taste buds something to smile about. The Corbin Basil Gimlet has been a guest favorite and top seller made with Corbin Gin, simple syrup, fresh basil leaves, and fresh squeezed lime juice.
“It is smooth for a gin,” noted Souza. “We wanted to make a gin that was approachable. We put the Basil Gimlet on the menu and nobody knew what it was. It was our number one seller before the blueberry mojito launched last year but people did not realize they were drinking gin. It is so good. People were like ‘I don’t like gin’ but they found a gin here that they like.”
Rye whiskey has made a comeback and has gained popularity within the last decade. For the whiskey connoisseur a good rye is worth having with a whiskey ball or a whiskey square to really taste the bold spicy flavors. The Corbin Cash Merced Rye Whiskey is currently their number one seller. Don’t let the name fool you; it is not made in Merced but that is the variety of rye that is farmed right here in the 209. It has a little bite to it with some spicy notes and is a little nutty, too, but definitely sippable.
Corbin Cash 1917 was named because that is the year the farm was established and the family began farming rye. The 1917 has been aged in the barrel a little over five years.
“The rye was always my favorite,” stated Souza. “How this (1917) came about is that every time we would do a distillery tour, we offered a barrel tasting so we were doing barrel tasting for people and taking it right out of the barrel and people were like ‘can I just buy this?’. It has so much more flavor directly out of the barrel and we run it through a paper filter so this is 123 proof but when you sip it, it is hot and you’ve got to warn people but when you actually sip it and roll it around and swallow slowly, you are not going to beat the flavor on it. Anybody that drinks whiskey that comes out here ends up buying a bottle of that because of the flavor profile.”
Another guest favorite is the The Grand Fashion made with 1917, Turbinado syrup, angostura and orange bitters topped with a Luxardo Cherry.
The Corbin Blended Whiskey is a blend of sweet potato spirits and Merced rye whiskey aged in custom charred American oak barrels giving the blend a lighter, smoother swirl on the tongue.
Something that is truly exclusive to their distillery is the Corbin Cash Barrel Reserve Sweet Potato Liqueur. This blend of brown sugar, spices and extracts are inspired by Souza’s mother’s sweet potato squares recipe. The flavor profile has some sweetness that can make this an after-dinner drink straight on the rocks. Souza added that it can be used in an old fashioned or Manhattan to give the classics a twist or simply mixed with ginger ale. It is made with sweet potatoes from the farm and is a lower proof liqueur aged in custom barrels.
“We try to use fresh ingredients all the time,” remarked Souza. “It is not the cheapest thing but people keep coming back because it is a better experience. It is the experience of having a good cocktail. I have had people say ‘there is no booze in this’ well, after two or three, it is like ‘whoa’.”
Souza has been farming since he was a kid and later spent some time in Las Vegas creating a promotion company and dabbling in spirits. From the knowledge and relationships he gained in his travels he came back to the 209 to create his own premium spirits as well as continue farming.
Although the spirit business is particularly challenging with its own rules and regulations in comparison to the beer and wine industry, through research and tenacity Souza has been able to succeed and grow. He is enjoying where Corbin Cash is currently at and has visions of expanding the brand.
The future is bright for the distillery with a bourbon, tequila, and rum that are in the works along with some canned cocktails. They have also partnered with Dust Bowl to create some other varieties like a beer that is being barrel aged forthwith to make a whiskey that may include some co-branding when it is ready.
“I am more appreciative from the small guy to the big guy,” said Souza. “There is a lot of respect to be had in the industry.”
For those that may want to take a tour of the facility and have a taste, Corbin Cash has a few different options with a 30-minute education tasting, a one-hour distillery tour and tasting, or a three-hour farm tour that is seasonal and includes food and beverages. They plan to have a St. Patrick’s Day celebration with live music and tasty craft cocktails as long as businesses are allowed to open up.
If you just want to wet your whistle and want a place to relax, pull up a chair at Corbin Cash, 3241 Hull Road in Atwater. For more information, call or visit corbincash.com.
“That is really what we are, we are an experience,” expressed Souza. “We are not a bar and we are not a restaurant. We are more like a venue and a different experience. You can’t really get the experience here anywhere else. We want people to come out and feel comfortable. Our clientele has been awesome. We are happy to be open.”