Location:342 Elgin Rd.
Elgin, AZ 85611
Tasting Room Hours:
Mon – Thursday: by appointment only
Fridays: Noon to 4PM
Saturdays: Noon to 6PM
Sundays: Noon to 4PM
Call ahead for details
A World Class Distillery in the Heart of Arizona Wine Country
Located 50 miles south of metro Tucson, Flying Leap’s winery estate in Elgin features a world-class distillery, barrel house, tasting room and spacious event center in the heart of Arizona’s scenic wine country. Our distillery began operating in August 2016. As one of Arizona’s largest growers of wine grapes, Flying Leap’s distilling emphasis is on grape-based spirits, including vodka, brandy, grappa and an assortment of delicious infused liqueurs made from eau-de-vie. Our facility also includes a robust grain spirits production capability. We operate a large hammermill for the grinding of malts, which are fed into our mash tuns, fermenters and stills. We produce whiskies of all kinds, including aged bourbon, clear moonshine, rye and single malt spirits.
Why a Distillery?
Flying Leap owns and operates a large, geographically-diverse wine grape farming operation – said differently, we grow our own grapes. A common problem for farm wineries is overproduction of wine, resulting in high inventory carrying costs (wine is very costly to store, as it must be stored under very tightly-controlled temperature and humidity requirements). Wine is also very expensive to produce. The grape farmer has very limited control over each season’s harvest volume, because the harvest weight is a function of environmental factors, most of which are out of the grower’s control. To complicate this problem, wine grapes spoil quickly once picked, and with every passing hour after picking their quality diminishes rapidly. Accordingly, freshly-picked wine grapes cannot be stored to await changes in market conditions, such as is done with apples, potatoes and cereal crops. When grapes are picked, they must be processed immediately. If a grower harvests a surplus, it can only be dealt with in a handful of ways. First, the surplus can be processed into wine immediately, provided the grower has the facilities to do so or can hire it out to a custom-crush operator. Second, the surplus can be sold off to wineries. Third, the surplus fruit can be distilled. This third option has many benefits to the winery. Distilling reduces the storage volume of the product by nearly 80%, significantly reducing storage costs (as compared to wine). Storing distilled spirits does not require exacting temperature and humidity controls, which further reduces the storage costs compared to wine. Lastly, distilled spirits can age for very long periods without risk of spoilage, allowing the producer to time product releases for more favorable market conditions. Flying Leap’s distillery is a manifestation of the size of our agricultural production, and it exists to allow our company to utilize our whole harvest each fall while enjoying substantially reduced market risk and lower inventory carrying costs as compared to producing wine with our surplus. It also gives us a whole cornucopia of new products to sell.
Flying Leap Operates German-made Copper Stills from CARL GmbH
Flying Leap operates four stills, all of hand-hammered copper: two kettles and two column stills (including a vodka column), all manufactured near Stuttgart, Germany by CARL Artisan Distillery & Brewing Systems. The stills are as much works of art as they are achievements of engineering, and Flying Leap’s distillery tasting room includes large viewing windows to allow our guests to view the stills and watch our production team in action while sampling our spirits. The kettles – one of 650-liters volume and the other of 1,500-liters volume are used for the primary distillation of alcohol from either mash or fruit must, and the columns are reserved for refining the base spirits. Our distillery is powered by an onsite gas-fired steam plant, and our stills are cooled using recovered water chilled by a large evaporative chiller.
Our Barrelhouse & Cellaring Philosophy
112-liter French Oak Casks of Brandy – Flying Leap Barrelhouse – Elgin, AZ
Without a doubt, the oak barrel and time are the most critical parts of producing fine spirits. At Flying Leap, we use only the finest premium oak casks for aging our spirits – without compromise, and we patiently allow for years of aging to mellow our spirits in our barrelhouse. Our wine grape and apple brandies are aged in 112-liter French oak casks constructed with hardwood sourced from the Limousin forest in central France. For reasons of uniqueness of character, aroma and high porosity, French distillers in Cognac age their iconic regional brandies in oak barrels made only from wood from either the Tronçais or (more often) Limousin forests. These casks are not readily available in the United States in the volumes or quantity needed for commercial production of fine brandy, so we have had to go to great lengths to source them from the same forests and craftsmen, importing them directly from a cooperage in Europe at great expense. For our grain/malt spirits, we age our bourbon and rye whiskies in heavily-charred American oak casks produced in Louisville, Kentucky of both Missouri and Kentucky white oak. We also re-purpose wine barrels for grain spirit aging, especially barrels that have been saturated for years with our brandy-fortified Port-style wines.
Farm-to-Glass: Unassailable Authenticity
Flying Leap is a team of Arizona farmers and winemakers, and our distillery is an extension of our winemaking focus. Our core business is wine, and our distilled spirits are a natural extension of and complimentary to our wine portfolio. Authentic to the core – our wine grapes are transformed by our distillers into brandies, liquors, vodkas and grappa. We even distill our tank-settled yeasts to produce a distinctive, butterscotch/vanilla flavored delicacy called Weinhefebrandt (in German, wine yeast brandy). Flying Leap is among the most unique distilling operations in the United States.
Our Distilled Spirits Portfolio
Brandies – Distilled from Arizona Wine Grapes
Fine Cask-Aged Brandies at Flying Leap – Elgin, AZ
Flying Leap’s brandy is distilled from wine grapes, which we harvest by-hand each Fall from our southeastern Arizona vineyards in the Kansas Settlement region south of Willcox. In 2016 and 2017, we produced our brandies from eau-de-vie, which we distilled from Grenache and Marsanne wine grapes, and in 2018 we switched to Ugni Blanc when our Block 3 vineyard (planted in 2016) came into production. Flying Leap brandy is produced from whole grape must with no additives – we incorporate the skins, pulp and seeds into our fermenters as a full, complete fruit must, which we load into our kettle stills to distill the initial eaux-de vie. This is a very labor-intensive process, but the spirit has significantly more grape essence and flavor. Our eaux-de-vie are cut to 144 proof, then loaded into 112-liter French oak casks and placed into our barrel house for extending aging and mellowing. Currently, we offer a VS Brandy, which was aged in French oak for two full years.
Nachbrenner Makes a Wonderful Winter Warmer (PHOTO: Thomas Ale Johnson)
Nachbrenner is a potent 100-proof spiced brandy made from our cask-aged eaux-de-vie and infused with a blend of 17 different spices. “Nachbrenner” means “afterburner” in German. This brandy is intensely aromatic, with rich, forward notes of cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg and clove.
Vodka, Distilled from Grapes
Smooth, Clean Vodka from Arizona-Grown Wine Grapes
Our vodka is distilled from Grenache, Marsanne & Ugni Blanc wine grapes, which are sourced from our Blocks 1, 2 and 3 vineyards in the Kansas Settlement region south of Willcox. Our distillation system gives us the capability to distill premium-quality vodka in two steps: first, from grape must into eau-de-vie utilizing our kettle stills, and second from eau-de-vie into vodka using a very tall, 33-plate column still. The process is straightforward, with no adjuncts or additional sugars used in the fruit must (we use only fresh wine grapes processed minimally, without heat using a full fruit must of juice, skin, seeds and stems). Our vodka is pure, clean grape ethanol. Less than 1% of the world’s vodka is made from grapes, making Flying Leap’s vodka a very rare product.
Arancello Orange Brandy Liqueur
Flying Leap produces a wonderful portfolio of liqueurs using eau-de-vie distilled from our wine grapes. Among these are our Arancello Orange Brandy, a sweet cordial infused with real orange peel, as well as a lavender-infused herbal liqueur made using lavender flowers harvested from our estate lavender garden each summer. Lastly, we produce a 100-proof “Nachbrenner” (German for “Afterburner”), which is our intense spice-infused brandy liqueur.
Flying Leap Grappa is Aged in 112-liter French Oak Casks
Flying Leap Grappa is a delicious spirit distilled from wine grape “pomace”, a sugar-rich mixture of grape skins, pulp, seeds and stems left over after pressing our white wine grapes each fall. Our pomace contains a seasonal blend of Viognier, Malvasia Bianca, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, Ugni Blanc and Marsanne skins, which are co-fermented then distilled into pure grappa. Flying Leap ages and mellows our grappa in French oak barriques for a minimum of 18-months, which develops a smoother sipping spirit, with concentrated grape aroma and distinctive notes of ginger, caramel and baking spices.