Owner and distiller Farid Dormishian makes lauded Bay Area spirits that have landed distribution in several additional states.
Dormishian says he originally intended to make “rum, whiskey,
and gin.” But while Falcon Spirits Distillery does in fact make the latter (and
very well at that, judging by the wins for its gins at the Good Food Awards),
Dormishian says, “There wasn’t enough money and there wasn’t enough space for
barrels” to produce whiskey when the company began.
That hasn’t stopped Falcon’s portfolio from blossoming
into a diverse selection of innovative spirits. In addition to its Botanica Spirivs Gin, plus
a barrel-aged one, Dormishian makes two versions of herbal-liqueur amaro with
the moniker Aplomado; a vodka and an unaged brandy; a raspberry and a coffee liqueur;
and two types of an Italian-style amaro called fernet.
The diversity in that product lineup reflects the
well-traveled, technically detailed, and cultured hand preparing the spirits
themselves. After spending childhood in Iran — reveling in the culinary
background of his grandmother who was originally from Soviet Georgia and made her own
preserves and wines — his family relocated to Cupertino, pre-Silicon Valley.
Dormishian subsequently studied biochemistry and chemical engineering, which
led to him working in vaccine research and studies involving fermentation.
While pursuing his degree at the University of California Berkeley, he paid for
his school by working as a bartender. (The San Francisco
Chronicle has published his recipe for a three-citrus margarita.)
You can include wine- and beer-making in his background, as well.
A onetime finance director at UC San Francisco (Dormishian
also has an MBA in finance and operations), he set about transitioning to a new
career. Travels — and spirit tastings — throughout Europe beckoned him to
open his own distillery. Before returning to America, Dormishian ordered his
still from the German manufacturer Arnold
Holstein in 2011.
Experimentation is a key to his success. Dormishian says of
his use of herbs, “I have used as many as 75 herbs/ingredients per formulation to create a library of flavors. Right
now, I have a catalog/notes of over 300 herbs.” He describes his Apertivo
Aplomado as “gentian-forward,” but it also contains damiana, marigold, and annatto
seed. His Amaro Aplomado incorporates vanilla beans, allspice, licorice, and
rosemary. Dormishian has helped further popularize the Italian-style amaro,
fernet, in the Bay Area with Falcon’s three Fernet
Francisco offerings, which the distillery’s site says incorporate — besides a dozen hand-picked ingredients — “a holy wisp of fresh fog.”
Dormishian describes the making of his Botanica Spirivs Gin
as “pretty complicated.” It’s ultimately a mixture of different distillations,
which begin with a six-times distilled non-GMO corn base that Dormishian
purchases. Flavors married together by the end of the entire process — with
vapor distillation taking place along the way — include bergamot orange,
lavender, juniper, angelica root, and Persian cucumbers. Just like all his other creations, Dormishian incorporates “fresh ingredients” throughout the entire process.
Since beginning in 2011, Dormishian has increased his
production space from around 1,500 square feet to around 4,000. Production
volume has gone up, as well, during that time. This year, Dormishian expects to produce over 16,000 bottles. In addition to California,
distribution takes places within the states of Washington, Nevada, Arizona,
Georgia, New York, and Missouri, as well as into Calgary, Alberta in Canada.
Recognition has followed along the way. In 2014, Dormishian
was named San Francisco Magazine’s “Best of the Bay” Spirit Distiller. In
addition to a plethora of Good Food Awards for its products, Falcon Spirits
earned Double Gold at the 2022 San Francisco Competition for its Aplomado Amaro
(made using artichoke) and its Fernet Francisco Manzanilla, as well as a Gold
for its Fernet Francisco Ruibardo (made using rhubarb).
Dormishian plans to release two new amaros, a liqueur, and a
new fernet. But not every experiment finds its way into a bottle labeled Falcon
Spirits. Owing to Dormishian’s dogged attention to the stability of his
spirits, some experiments don’t make the cut. For instance, one apertivo displayed
promise. “It tasted fantastic to me,” says Dormishian. “And I let it sit, put
some under the sun. I put some in the cupboard, and I waited.” But
unfortunately, the color and flavor noticeably changed as it aged.
Dormishian says, “We take our time making products we care about.”
Challenges: Dormishian says, “It’s the same as any other
business — sales.” In Dormishian’s case, things are further complicated by
regulatory matters: he has California licenses for his still and for the
distilling, but he “can’t do tasting in-house and I can’t do sales — so I
depend on my distributors to do the sales.”
Opportunities: “We were about to release a lot of new
products, right before the pandemic,” says Dormishian. “So, I’m just slowly
releasing them now. I think those are good. I have five new products coming
Dormishian also does consulting work for outside
Needs: “Space,” he says. “I’m running out of space here.”