What do 12 whiskeys, 10 gins, 10 rums, seven vodkas, three cactus fruit spirits, two agaves, a brandy and an apple pie liqueur all have in common?
The answer is easy if you’re at Series 19. They’re all crafted in Arizona distilleries—from Flagstaff to Elgin—and they’re all available under one roof in this new downtown cocktail and spirits tasting room and bottle shop that only stocks booze from the Grand Canyon State.
I guess that makes Series 19 the Rand McNally of Arizona spirits.
So why create a tasting room dedicated exclusively to homegrown liquors and eschew bigger-brand products manufactured elsewhere?
“Why not?” said Matt Montgomery, co-owner of Series 19, located at 13 N. Stone Avenue. “In my opinion, Arizona doesn’t seem to have the reputation of a spirits-producing state, like Colorado, Washington, California, Oregon and others, but one look at our bar and you’ll see that Arizona really is a spirits state with some innovative and stylistic stuff going on.”
As an example, Montgomery points to the gin category that offers unique expressions of the Arizona regions from where they’re made.
Their Three Wells Mt. Lemmon Gin is made from botanicals grown in and around the area, while the Trevor’s Own Gin, made down at the Elgin Distillery, uses other botanicals from the region (at a 5,000-foot elevation). Thumb Butte Distillery, up in Prescott, is harvesting sagebrush that grows where they live for their Western Sage Gin.
The Arizona spirits at Series 19 are available in single pours and craft cocktails, as well as in custom flights to give their guests the opportunity to take their taste buds on a topographic tour.
The various flights include four, three-fourths-ounce servings representing different Arizona styles. On a recent visit I tasted through the whiskey flight, which showcases Hard-Way Bourbon from Tucson’s Three Wells Distilling Company, Whiskey Del Bac Classic from Tucson’s Hamilton Distillers, Bloody Basin Bourbon from Thumb Butte Distillery in Prescott and Peralta Bourbon from Adventurous Stills in Tempe. I picked up notes of caramel, stone fruit, butterscotch, spice and chocolate on a spirituous 200-mile journey that didn’t require gassing up.
Their inaugural cocktail menu features eight selections, most of which are anchored by Three Wells spirits. But the cocktails’ spirits are designed to be interchangeable, just in case you wanted to substitute a little Flagstaff or Phoenix for your Tucson base.
Montgomery tells me that the name Series 19 comes from Title 4 of the state’s liquor laws which offer guidance on more than 20 different series of licenses. The Series 19 license is an “Offsite Tasting Room” for farm wineries or craft distilleries as an extension to their master license. It allows license holders to serve cocktails for on-premise consumption, like a bar, and sell bottles-to-go for off-premise consumption, like a bottle shop or liquor store.
There are just under 20 licensed distilleries in Arizona that are currently bottling and selling spirits, and Series 19 is stocking a range of products from 15 of them. This is impressive given that they’ve only been open for a week or two. But since Montgomery and his co-owner Chris Dudding have a pledge to taste-test every product that ends up on their shelves and in their wells, these things can’t be rushed.
Call it one stop shopping for the Arizona spirits enthusiast. Just remember to include me on your shopping list.
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at email@example.com. Russell is also the host of “On the Menu Live” that airs 5 to 6 p.m. Saturdays on KQTH 104.1 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.