Originally from Oakland, twin sisters Sam (above left) and Ali Blatteis were living across the country from one another when they developed a passion for whisky. After many distillery tours, countless tastings, and their own personal studies, they launched Home Base Spirits together in the Bay Area in 2015. We actually first met Ali when she worked at Alchemy, the bottle shop on Grand Avenue that is now Alkali Rye. With her passion and knowledge for spirits, she, together with Sam, have released eleven bottles of American whiskies, bourbons, and California amaros. While distillation occurs off-site, they work together to perfect their terroir-driven blends at their Berkeley warehouse, batch by batch.
We were lucky to visit Sam and Ali, right before they jetted off to Seattle for the Good Food Awards, where they won in the spirits category!! As their business expands, we couldn't be more excited for them as people start to learn about their responsibly sourced and produced bottles. Plus, they are delicious!
I was able to ask the Blatteis sisters a few questions about their journey - Home Base will be at our Matsuri this year on August 5th and we're also proud to carry a few of their bottles on our shelves with more coming!
When did you start your operation in Berkeley?
We started Home Base Spirits in 2015 and our first home was a teeny space in a mixed-used warehouse in Jack London. We expanded to our current Berkeley warehouse in 2018.
Dozens of casks filled with aging whisky are stacked at Home Base – they source their casks locally!
Do you run the company just the two of you, or do you have other partners?
It is just the two of us but we are also thrilled to be working with Scottie Forer and two rad Bay Area spirits companies – Common Ground Spirits and Frijolotes – as part of the Bay Spirits Collective. Scottie helps all of our brands expand our reach and get our locally made products into Bay Area bars and store shelves.
What were your inspirations for starting the company?
We were inspired by our love of well made spirits as well as wanting to create whiskies with terroir – to see how we could make truly 'California' style spirits by sourcing locally and ecologically grown ingredients, then distilling with grain forwardness and our climate in mind. We also knew we wanted to create a drinking experience that would be welcoming and inclusive – something we wish we had had when we were first learning about whisky and spirits.
Ali and Sam were so kind to let us taste the liquid gold that were still aging in the casks.
What are your favorite whiskies (besides your own)?
We first fell in love with some classic Kentucky bourbons and ryes – Four Roses, Buffalo Trace, Willet, and then some stellar, grain forward international whiskies like NIkka Coffey Grain, Teeling and Green Spot Irish whiskies, Glenrothes and Springbank Scotches. We've also been really inspired by the American craft whiskies that are similarly focusing on ingredients and terroir, like Corsair, Balcones, Leopold Brothers and Westland. We can't stop exploring and trying new whiskies – it's just too much fun.
A few books for knowledge and inspiration
As sisters, were you both exposed to whisky early in life, or did you discover whisky separately? What are your earliest recollections of drinking whisky?
Ali learned that she enjoyed whisky while attending happy hours in SF with coworkers early in her (non-spirits) career. That led her to wanting to learn more about the category in a friendly, comfortable way, so she founded a women's whisky club with friends. Samantha was living across the country at the time and would attend when she was in town and credits Ali for introducing her to whisky.
Sam leading a tasting of their recent bottlings
What is your favorite part of whisky making?
Ali, our 'master blender and distiller', loves that making whisky is a craft. As a professional artist, it plays into her skills and passions, and lets her share her vision with others. Samantha enjoys sharing the story and shining the light on our farming, malting, and distillation partners.
This is where the blending magic happens!
Home Base collaborates with local artists to create their labelsWhat are your future goals for the company?
We hope to open a distillery and tasting room to continue our mission of making spirits accessible and inclusive to anyone who wants to learn and enjoy them in a fun, responsible way. We are excited to experiment with even more ingredients and sustainable production methods and share them with our community.
Home Base hosts private tastings at their space, inquire here.
What is your favorite part of running a whisky company? What is your least favorite part?
Our favorite part is probably getting to have our hand in every step of the process and bringing our vision to fruition. We also love bringing more people into the fold of spirits and getting them to think about spirits as an agricultural and artistic product. Our least favorite, reporting and taxes. Alcohol is heavily regulated and spirits even more so!
Bottle labels and important Fedex ALC stickers
What do you like to do in your free time?
We don't have a ton of free time these days being small business owners on top of parents of young children, BUT we still love exploring the Bay Area, getting out into nature for hikes, creating art, and reviving the women's whisky club when we can.
Thank you Ali and Sam for taking the time to answer my questions! We look forward to working with you in the coming years and helping to revive your rad whisky club for women!