In 2006, while drinking Scotch and barbecuing with mesquite scraps from our custom furniture company, Arroyo Design, we had a thought.  Why couldn’t we malt barley over mesquite instead of peat, as they do in Scotland, for a single-malt whiskey with a flavor distinctive to the American Southwest?

Arroyo Design had started with a similar question – Why couldn’t we take this wild and spectacular wood from right here in the Sonoran Desert and make it into fine furniture, instead of using exotics from the rain forest?  Arroyo Design came to be a nationally recognized and much-published design and manufacturing company, thanks to the use of old-world joinery, careful wood selection and uncompromising attention to detail.

Unable to shake the concept of a Sonoran Desert single-malt, Stephen began learning how to make whiskey, starting with a 5 gallon alembic pot-still from Portugal.  While getting that process down, he also began learning how to malt barley, first using 6-row cattle-feed barley from nearby Coolidge, AZ, and later 2-row malting barley from Southern Colorado.

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Getting legal

Getting legal

Graduating to a 40 gallon pot-still in 2011, it was time to get legal.  Stephen and his daughter Amanda incorporated Hamilton Distillers in 2011 and product-development was officially underway.  By 2013 the three distinctly different Whiskeys Del Bac hit the local Tucson marketplace, and were warmly embraced by The Old Pueblo.

Getting Bigger

Getting Bigger

By January of 2014, enough investment had been raised to begin implementing a 500 gallon distillery and malt house in a larger location.  Finally, on December 18, 2014, we ran our first spirit run on the new still and started aging barrels of whiskey.

While our first malting system involved floor malting 70 lb batches and then drying the malt in a meat style smoker we constructed,  our new malthouse allows us to malt 5,000 lb batches using a tank system in which we are able to steep, germinate, and dry between two tanks.  We have to make all the same evaluations and decisions on our new system as we did when we floor malted, but this larger system gives us more control, resulting in better malt.

Who we are today

Who we are today

Hamilton Distillers’ approach to making whiskey is just like Arroyo Design’s approach to making furniture.

After years of crafting furniture that was authentic, lasting, and handmade – wood kiln dried in house, furniture assembled with mortise and tenon joints, and finished with hand applied oil and wax – there was never any question or contemplation that Hamilton’s whiskeys would be made otherwise.  We do everything right in house.  We malt our own barley, and we mash, ferment, distill, barrel and bottle under one roof.

After learning that so many “craft” or “artisan” American whiskeys actually come from the same megadistillery in Indiana, we are especially proud to say we do it all ourselves. It’s as real as it could ever be.

At hamilton, We

  • Malt

    the barley

  • Smoke

    the barley

  • Mash

    the malt

  • Ferment

    the wash

  • Distill

    the whiskey

  • Barrel

    the whiskey

  • Bottle

    the whiskey

Really. It's the old Scottish model of whiskey-making.
You can come and see it all.