At the intersection of hyperlocal and small-batch craft distilling, Tucson's Three Wells resides. Following Hamilton Distillers lead, Three Wells, which is led by distiller Matt Montgomery and Chris Dudding, became the second licensed distillery in Tucson—but the spirits maker is forging a unique identity by using place-specific ingredients to craft its wares.
From the 50-percent prickly pear/cane sugar spirit (think rum/eau de vie hybrid) known simply as Sonora to the tequila-like 80 proof 100 percent blue agave spirit (made from agave nectar sourced out of Jalisco), Three Well's liquors give a hint to the desert around us in ingredient and flavor. Fans of tequila can expect the same smooth flavor from Agave with a vegetal characteristic, akin to what many enjoy about mezcal (without the smoke), on the back end.
The Sonora and Agave are both available in unaged Silver varieties, while the Sonora is also currently available aged for six months in a charred American White Oak barrel, similar to ones used in the bourbon aging process. All three spirits recently won medals at the Denver International Spirits Competition. In the next year or so, Three Wells plans to release añejo and reposado varieties of their Agave as well.
Now, Three Wells is also preparing to release its fourth spirit from their hand-built stills: the Mt. Lemmon gin. With a botanical mix that the distilling team harvests themselves including juniper (of course), creosote and chiltepin, the name couldn't be more apt to allude to the desert mountains just outside of the city. The juniper itself comes from Mt. Lemmon.
If all of that spirited Sonoran flavor sounds good to you, there's more good news: Arizona-based Hensley has signed on Three Wells as a client, meaning their liquors will soon be available across the state. Although the gin won't be available until mid-May, both Sonora varieties and the Agave are available through the distributor now.
For those in Tucson, the distillery also offers free tours by appointment, with tastings and bottle sales available on-site. Plaza Liquors, Rumrunner, Wildcat Market & Liquors and U of A Liquors also sell Three Wells products for around $35 per bottle. Visit the Three Wells website
for more information.