SR Distilled founder, Sean Hallman, works solely to make products that excite him. When asked what the future holds for the Californian distillery, he admits there is no long-term approach – he’ll continue producing spirits until it’s no longer a worthwhile endeavor. Without the rigid guidelines of a long-term plan, Sean creates small-batch spirits that align with consumers’ wants and needs while still defying the status quo.
Sean Hallman recalls a love for whiskey early on in his life, specifically a memory of enjoying Wild Turkey. Born and raised in Southern California, Hallman has lived in a few different places, including Louisiana, Florida, and North Carolina. After being a naval officer for seven years, he found his way back to California in 2007.
Both Sean and his wife have full-time jobs and started SR Distilled, in 2016, to create spirits that were fun for them. “[We are a] dual-income [household], no kids, getting killed in taxes…our accountant said, you either need to buy another house, have a kid, or start a business. So, we started a business,” jokes Sean. “This is more or less of a really expensive hobby for us.” What started as a joint business venture with a fraternity brother has now evolved into a tasting room and distillery where visitors can sit and chat with Sean before buying their very own bottle.
As a grain-to-glass brand, SR Distilled exemplifies what it means to source locally and with intention. They differentiate themselves through specialty ingredients, interesting yeast strains, exacting fermentation, careful blending, and constant experimentation.
Surprisingly, Sean Hallman does not have a background in chemical engineering and learned on the job. He was a business major during his undergrad and has a masters from the University of Southern California in Public Administration. “YouTube and Amazon are great resources…but I did do the brewing program at UC San Diego…and the beautiful thing about that is they have industry people teaching.”
With a portfolio of over 14 products varying from whiskey, agave-based spirits, rum, and gin, SR Distilled is pulling inspiration from brewers when it comes to distilling their liquid. Rather than using distiller’s yeast, Sean uses beer and ale yeast, which adds nuances to the flavor. “When you read the description of the beer yeast it tells you all the flavors, everything that is going to come out. A lot of them will tell you if you ferment at this temperature or if you ferment at the higher end you’re going to get this. If you look at distillers yeast it’s just going to say ‘hey it makes alcohol’,” jokes Sean Hallman. “The fermentation has always been near and dear for me because you can’t make chicken soup out of chicken bleep. So I like using a Belgian ale yeast because it gives big esters…and what you need in the barrel to mature a spirit.”
As a Navy Veteran, Sean Hallman produced one specific product that is near and dear to his heart: the 1893 Navy Strength Rum. Named in honor of the year the Navy Chief Petty Officer Rank was established, this rum is distilled from high-quality molasses and demerara sugar, then aged in an ex-bourbon barrel. The liquid is rich and sweet enhanced by caramel, toffee, and vanilla notes (at least 114 proof).
In every episode, the hosts of the Black and Brown podcast ask their guests what they get on the ear for whiskey – aka what noise or song do you get when drinking whiskey. Sean Hallman’s answer is the reason we love and support his brand: “One of my favorite bands is a band called Tool, the song 46 and 2. Just the bassline in it and the way the guitar comes in. I could just sit back. Relax. I can enjoy a sip. Enjoy a pour. And just kind of lose myself in it.” Tool is still touring so if you’re at their next show, say hello to Sean!
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About Black Future with Da Black and Brown Podcast:
Looking to make room for everyone at the metaphorical bar, the Black and Brown podcast and Spirited Media have partnered together to create a series. We are looking to increase the education and learning opportunities for the industry while amplifying the voices of BIPOC brands. Through this program, both companies will work together to tell the stories and inspiration behind these brands. All we ask is that you follow along and support them with us!