This is the second season for the gin, which was introduced last year in small quantities

ATASCADERO — Eric Olson of Atascadero’s Central Coast Distillery continues creating small-batch spirits with Walheim Ranch Gin, a collaboration with pioneer specialty citrus grower and horticulturist Lance Walheim. Walheim Ranch Gin has unique citrus overtones from the fresh rind of California-grown Bergamot sour oranges with subtle hints of Earl Grey Tea, fennel, and other botanicals. This is the second season for the gin, which was introduced last year in small quantities. 

Eric Olson of Atascadero’s Central Coast Distillery and specialty citrus grower Lance Walheim have collorated to create Walheim Ranch Gin. Contributed Photo

Bergamot sour orange is a fruit you might not have heard of but may be familiar with its flavor and aroma. The rind of bergamot is the distinctive flavor you taste in Earl Grey tea. The oils in the rind are also used in perfumes. Though the juice is very sour, bergamot is also being used by creative chefs in various recipes for sauces, drinks, and desserts. 

The dried rind of bergamot sour orange has also been used to flavor a few gins. The fruit is grown primarily in Calabria, Italy, and parts of West Africa. There are also some small plantings in California, of which Walheim Ranch is one of the largest. 

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From a botanical standpoint, bergamot sour orange is thought to be a hybrid of unknown origin, but probably with sour orange and lemon, lime, or citron parentage. It’s about the size of an orange but yellow when fully ripe. The rind is powerfully fragrant and rich in aromatic oils, something anyone who has recently visited Central Coast Distillery while the fruit is being zested can attest too. Both the rind oils and the juice are reported to have health benefits. 

A culinary school graduate, Olson sharpened his cooking skills while traveling through 27 countries. The highlight of his resume, and certainly a gauge of his pedigree, were the four years he spent as executive chef of the upscale Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. In 2017, he set out on his own and established Central Coast Distillery, home of the award-winning Forager Spirits, on Traffic Way in Atascadero. He is also the chef of the small restaurant in the distillery. 

For more information on Central Coast Distillery and their fine spirits, visit foragerspirits.net

Lance Walheim is familiar to many home gardeners and commercial citrus growers, especially in California. He has written over 30 garden books, including three on citrus. He was a staff writer for Sunset magazine and is one of the senior editors of the last four editions of the “Sunset Western Garden Book,” the bible of western gardening.

Walheim is also a pioneer in the citrus industry. Over 35 years ago, he and his partners founded California Citrus Specialties, which is responsible for helping introduce and promote many new citrus varieties to chefs, gardeners, supermarkets, and commercial growers. He also established a 17-acre specialty citrus grove in Exeter, California.

Eric suggests you enjoy Walheim Ranch Gin in a sophisticated gin and tonic or martini. It’s also wonderful in a Negroni, Greyhound, and other cocktails.