The Spirits of Arizona

by Cara Pencak

Arizona Flag and bottlesTucked away in a corner of Tempe is Arizona Distilling Company, a micro distillery established in 2012 by co-owners Matt Cummins, Jonathan Eagan, Jason Grossmiller and Rodney Hu.

“That’s the year we got serious about it,” Grossmiller said, who had previously worked at a casino for 14 years. “I was brushing up on [distilling] and going to different micro distilleries…about seven to eight years before.” Eagan said of the decision to open the distillery, “We trusted Jason with our lives and money.”

Arizona Distilling Co. is proud to be a community-based company. “We try to tie everything that we do back to Arizona,” said Eagan. For instance, the distillery sources ingredients from local farmers and creates a variety of spirits (bourbon, gin, whiskey and moonshine) that are inspired by our state’s history. Eagan, Grossmiller and Hu are also Arizona natives and attended Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe together. “Our motivation has always been – as a team – to really showcase the unique parts of Arizona and educate the public about these different parts that they might not know about,” explained Hu.

bottlesWhen visitors first arrive in Arizona, they are usually surprised by the diversity of plants that grow here. “My idea was to at least shed light on the agricultural community,” Grossmiller said. The distillery’s Desert Durum Whiskey, Arizona’s first grain-to-bottle whiskey, accomplishes just that. The whiskey is made from white Sonoran wheat, which grows exclusively in Arizona and southern California. On a 15-acre plot near the Arizona City-Eloy border, the distillers partnered with local farmers to plant and harvest the wheat, with the end product being a smooth tasting whiskey.

Arizona Distilling Co. is a local distillery, but its Desert Dry Gin was globally recognized for the Double Gold Medal at the 2015 San Francisco Spirits Competition, which received more than 1,500 entries this year. “That’s a hard thing to get,” Grossmiller said. “All 40 judges have to agree that this is a gold-medal-winning spirit.” The unique flavors captured in the gin were inspired by Arizona’s five Cs, which are copper, cattle, climate, citrus and cotton. During its second distilling process, also known as the “finishing run,” the gin is infused with botanicals sourced from the Cottonwood area. These botanicals – cardamom, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and citrus – are a tasty and flowery reflection of the historical five Cs of Arizona.

Rodney and Jason
Rodney Hu and Jason Grossmiller

The guys at Arizona Distilling Co. are not stopping here. They have several more projects in the works, including making vodka and tequila, to be distributed by the end of the year, and an ultimate goal to extend their distillery with an attached bar and restaurant. Additionally, once production gets up to scale, Arizona Distilling Co. will donate unused ingredients to local farmers to use as feed, bringing everything full-circle. “One of the most important aspects of this business, I think, is supporting the agricultural community,” said Grossmiller. “But we want to try to be a part of every local business in Arizona – help them grow, and they’ll help us grow.”

Arizona Distilling Co. is, without a doubt, firmly rooted in Arizona history and culture. Check out this gem for yourself. Public tours are held on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 1:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m., with the last tour beginning at 6 p.m. Spirits are also available for purchase throughout the state, from Bisbee all the way to the general store at the Grand Canyon. Products can be found at local restaurants and bars in addition to AJ’s Fine Foods, Total Wine & More, BevMo, Fry’s and select Safeway, Costco and Sam’s Club stores.


For more information and to schedule your tour, visit

Cara Pencak is a local writer with a strong connection to our natural world. In December, she will graduate from Arizona State University with an English degree and a technical communication certificate.

Photos by Crista Alvey.

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