Wine & Beer

A new distillery is open at SLO Brew Rock. It’s going for an ‘ocean and cowboy’ theme

A new distillery has opened at SLO Brew’s The Rock featuring hand-crafted whiskey and other spirits.

Rod & Hammer’s SLO Stills held a soft opening Saturday in its new venue — a side wing of The Rock at 855 Aerovista Place near the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.

The distillery features an “ocean and cowboy” theme based on the backgrounds of co-owners Hamish “Hammer” Marshall and Rodney “Rod” Cegelski. Marshall is a former Australian rancher, and Cegelski is a local surfer.

SLO Stills will be open Saturday and Sunday for the next couple of weekends before settling into its regular schedule of 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, and 12 to 9 p.m Friday through Sunday. The tasting room will offer distillery tours, spirits flights and a members-only bottle club.

“We’re really excited about it because the spirit world is a lot of fun,” Cegelski said. “We’ll even offer customers the chance to follow the distillation process through by purchasing a barrel of their own, and getting to observe the process.”

The new look of the space has displays of wooden longhorns, cowboy hats, vintage surfboards and surfing books.

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A new distillery Rod & Hammer’s SLO Stills, a title coined from the nicknames ascribed to Rodney Cegelski, left and Hamish Marshall. It will offer bourbon, rye and other spirits. David Middlecamp

Visitors will discover leather menus and coasters. Seating is upholstered with cowhide.

“Hamish is an Australian jackaroo and raised on a ranch, and I’m a local surfer from Shell Beach,” Cegelski said. “We wanted a where-Australia-meets-California concept.”

Prices of bottles of whiskey and bourbon range from about $50 to $70. SLO Still’s products will be sold in local grocery stores and restaurants, producing about 2,000 to 3,000 cases (of six bottles each) per year. Beer from the brewery will be used in the making of the whiskey.

Some of the water used to cut the alcohol will come from California sources such as the Pacific Ocean, boiled for desalination, in fitting with the surfer theme.

The business will also offer some limited food options such as flat-bread pizza, mussels and paella. But the customer experience will focus on the tasting.

A new distillery Rod & Hammer’s SLO Stills, a title coined from the nicknames ascribed to Hamish Marshall and his business partner, Rodney Cegelski. It will offer bourbon, rye and other spirits. David Middlecamp

“It will be an adult, mellow atmosphere, not a party vibe,” Cegelski said.

SLO Stills joins an emerging local distillery scene of more than a dozen operations and the nonprofit Distillers of SLO County, which promotes a distillery trail.

Marshall is also involved with another new distillery opening at the incoming Hotel Cerro in downtown SLO, which will offer liquors to in-house visitors only.

Marshall, a longtime local real estate developer, now is primarily focused on the food and beverage industry, he said.

“For the first time in a long time, I have nothing on the books (regarding planned real estate development),” Marshall said.

Together, Cegelski and he own The Rock; downtown’s SLO Brew newly renamed as The Carrisa; the second-floor SLO Brew Lofts lodging suites; and Quicky Car Wash locations in SLO and Atascadero.

“We’ve had SLO Stills in our planning for the past five years,” Marshall said. “Now, it’s finally up and running, and we think it will be an elevated experience for visitors and a great addition to what we’re doing.”

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Nick Wilson covers the city of San Luis Obispo and has been a reporter at The Tribune in San Luis Obispo since 2004. He also writes regularly about K-12 education, Cal Poly, Morro Bay and Los Osos. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkeley and is originally from Ojai.