High Spirits

By Larry Peña

A Calwise cocktailThis spring, Calwise Spirits, created by alumnus Aaron Bergh (Agricultural and Environmental Plant Sciences ’15) opened a new distillery and tasting room in Paso Robles, California. The company, which focuses on creating gin and rum inspired by the scents and flavors of the California coast, was born — illicitly at first — in the dorms at Cal Poly and matured at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).

“I’ve always loved hiking at places like Big Sur — the smells of the wild herbs are a big part of the experience that I wanted to have with me forever,” says Bergh, describing the wild native sage, yerba santa and fennel that impart their distinctive notes into his flagship Big Sur Gin.

The new space in Paso Robles doesn’t just offer samples of the spirits. Calwise is the only distillery tasting room between San Diego and Oregon licensed to operate as a full working bar, and fellow alumnus and mixologist Scott Romaine (Architecture ’14) has helped Bergh develop a full menu of cocktails featuring the spirits.

Beyond the new location, Calwise Spirits can be found in stores, bars and restaurants from San Diego to Mendocino and was named one of the 10 best rum distilleries in the nation by USA Today.


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