President, Master Distiller and Commander in mischief at Calivore Spirits!
1) Who is Aaron Bergh
I’m a 24-year-old SoCal native who got into distilling as a hobby. I grew up in Ventura county and moved to San Luis Obispo where I studied crop science and wine and viticulture at Cal Poly. Before and during college I worked in various jobs in agriculture and always had a steady supply of overripe fruit like peaches, plums, grapes, and apricots that were still delicious but too fragile to go to market. It would’ve hurt me inside to see this flavorful fruit go to waste so I learned how to ferment and distil it into brandy. From there it grew into an obsession as I moved on to whiskey, liqueurs, and of course rum.
2) What made you fall in love with rum and when did it happen?
Rum was always one of my go-to since I started drinking but not really for the right reasons. I didn’t realize that rum could be good until I made it myself when I was in college. I used molasses to make my first rum and when I tasted it I thought I screwed it up because it didn’t taste like the flavorless, burning rot-gut stuff I was used to drinking. It was smooth and a had a taste that was funky in a good way. It took me a little bit before I realized that I had created what rum enthusiasts would consider a really complex Jamaican-style rum. In the beginning when I was starting out some people doubted my ability to succeed at making good spirits due to my lack of experience. I begged to differ. Experienced distillers have had years of people telling them what rum should taste like and as a result, we have many rums on the market that taste similar. I haven’t had years of people telling me how to do things so I created a rum with little outside influence that tastes like how I think it should taste, and it has resulted in some really unique rums.
3) The biggest achievement you personally feel you have accomplished for the rum industry.
I’m actually making good rum. Outside of the few connoisseurs that know rum for what it should be, the general public still sees rum as being a low-quality spirit that they got sick off of too many times in college. Half of my time is spent convincing people that my rum is not like the nasty rums they’re used to and I’m usually successful in converting a rum-hater to a rum-lover. The other artisan rum distillers and I are technically competing, but we’re all helping each other out at the same time by working to remove the negative stigma associated with rum and opening peoples’ eyes to the world of craft spirits.
4) What is that thing that makes you want to continue in the rum industry?
I love working in the spirits industry because it’s fast-paced and there is never a shortage of parties with good food and drinks.
5) Favorite Rum Drink?
My favorite rum drink is a classic Hemingway-style daiquiri- 2 ounces Calivore Blonde rum, half a squeezed lime, and a sugar cube shaken with ice and strained. If I’m going for something a bit bolder, I’ll make a rum old fashioned or just sip it neat.
6) Where do you see the rum industry today and in the next 5 years?
Rum is a sleeping giant that is going to become the next big thing. It’s where whiskey was several years ago. I think in 5 years the market is going to be over-saturated with whiskey and the world is going to be tired of it. People are going to be looking for something more exciting and they’re going to turn towards whiskey’s brighter and more lively cousin: rum.
7) Share some (2-3) of your mentors and how they have helped you.
I’m a part of the San Luis Obispo Hothouse, a startup incubator founded by Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Small Business Development Center. There are many great business consultants and mentors there that have volunteered their time to bestow their wisdom upon me and help me become as successful as they are. I’m also appreciative of the advice given to me by other San Diego distillers, in particular, Bill Rogers of Liberty Call Distilling and Casey Miles of California Spirits Company.
8) What 3-5 things do you have on your bucket list for the next 12 months?
In the next 6 months, I plan to adopt a pet monkey, propose to Jennifer Lawrence, sail around the world in a pirate ship, and do a back flip off of a breaching whale. All at the same time.
9) Any last words?
Don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t listen to pretentious whiskey Nazis. They don’t know what they’re missing. Be adventurous in what you do and what you drink.
10) Where can people learn more about you? Website? Social Media Page?
Give us a follow on social media! We’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat as @calivorespirits. Our website calivorespirits.com has all sorts of fun stuff like cocktail recipes, merch, our blog, and where you can find our rums (and gin).