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In the 1990s, Stephen Gould, the founder of Golden Moon Distillery in Golden, was a part-owner of a small microbrewery in Reno, Nevada. Well in advance of the craft distilling craze taking hold, Gould and his partners decided to experiment with whiskey, just to see if they could make it. “I got fascinated with archival spirits shortly after that,” he says. “I started doing what I call ‘junking for booze’: bottom shelf in liquor stores, full bottles at garage sales and junk shops, antique stores, estate sales, even entire wine cellars.” He uncovered a case of Spanish absinthe that, as good absinthe should, gave him a vision: “I could actually make this stuff.”
From absinthe, Gould branched out to other uncommon spirits, among them a little-known liqueur called crème de violette. “This is something that was almost impossible to find even five years ago,” Gould says. He managed to uncover samples during his junking adventures—he even scored bottles from Europe and from private collections. What he found was disappointing. “Most violettes are incredibly syrupy,” he says. “I decided I wanted to do something different.”
Gould, who by this time was based in Golden, pored over antique distilling manuals, analyzed the few crème de violettes on the market, and even investigated perfume distilling methods. Along the way, he came to the conclusion that there was no precedent for the product he sought. To avoid the cloying results of some of the violettes he’d tasted, Gould determined he would have to find a way to distill the flower. His method is proprietary, but the resulting spirit, which hit the market in June 2013, is a complex blend that’s sweet, creamy, and bitter.
Violette is equally at home as a stand-alone cordial or mixed into a cocktail. But it’s a niche market: “The people who are going to buy this are the people who are…buying Amaro, they’re buying small-batch, premium spirits,” Gould says. “They’re really looking to experiment and build their own craft cocktails.”