Vodka Made With Fog Returns to Hanger 1
Hanger 1 mixes chenin blanc and viognier grapes with fog collected from San Francisco’s Mount Sutro for its limited edition Fog Point 2018 vodka.
Photo by Lance Yamamoto
Alameda’s Hangar 1 distillery has recently released its second edition of the world’s only consumer product made from fog: a small batch of artisanal vodka dubbed Fog Point.
Hangar 1 teamed up with the FogQuest nonprofit to erect a number of 10-foot-high mesh screens exquisitely designed to capture and condense atmospheric moisture in a dense intricate web of microfilaments. Little by little, the moisture accumulates into droplets, then into drops, which fall into troughs below and then into sealed tanks, which when full are transported to the distillery.
After an experimental run two years ago with a few screens in locations that didn’t produce much moisture, Hangar 1 identified the perfect spot to install its fog-catchers: On the west-facing peak of Mount Sutro in San Francisco. It is one of the Bay Area’s foggiest spots and is inside a security fence surrounding Sutro Tower and thus off-limits to the public and can’t be tampered with.
Fog Point vodka is made from distilled chenin blanc and viognier grapes. Then isn’t it technically brandy (aka grape liqueur), not vodka? And what role does the fog-water play if the bottle is filled with distilled grapes?
The answers lie with vodka’s dirty — or should we say clean — little secret: Although Old World vodka is traditionally made from potatoes, vodka has a second definition: If any fermentable plant matter of any type is distilled and then re-distilled until it reaches 190 proof, then it is deemed a neutral spirit, which when diluted to drinkable levels is rechristened as vodka, the current default name for chemically pure ethanol. By law (Title 27, Section 5.22 of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Code, to be precise), for something to be vodka, it must entail “redistillation of pure spirits so as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color.” In other words: Vodka must taste like nothing.
Almost all vodka in the United States is neutral spirit blended with water, such that if any finished bottle is under 100 proof, then it’s actually more water than alcohol. So the distinguishing factor is the quality of the water, not the alcohol.
“Our fog water is cleaner than any water you can get; we’ve tested it, and it has no chemicals of any kind,” says Hangar 1’s head distiller Caley Shoemaker.
The fog that arrives on North America’s western coastline is among the cleanest, freshest fog in the world, originating from 5,000 miles of Pacific Ocean wilderness. Shoemaker describes Fog Point’s taste as “bright and citrusy with creamy bottom notes, rounded out by mineral, wet stones and a butterscotch finish.”
Fog Point 2018 is a very limited edition: Hangar 1 collected only enough water to make 750 cases, which will be in a few East Bay establishments. It should be available (by the glass or by the bottle, unless sold out) at Runway Spirits next to the Hangar 1 distillery, 2505 Monarch St., Suite A, Alameda.