If you’ve been a loyal client at 1512 Barbershop on Pine and Polk for a while, you may have received a gift of some home-distilled whiskey from barber Sal Cimino over the years. Cimino’s got distilling in his blood, and he just this year got a license to sell his formerly secret product commercially. “I’ve got three generations behind me,” Cimino tells Grub Street. “My grandfather [also in San Francisco] made his own wine and grappa.” First to market was a limited batch of Cimino’s 1512 Barbershop Rye ($31 at Cask), an unaged white whiskey that’s a nod to moonshining past. And just last week Cimino released his first aged rye, the 1512 Aged Barbershop Rye ($59 for 375 mL), which spent five months in casks but which is already showing great complexity.
Of course, Cimino’s got a wealth of experience under his belt already, but if you ask him how much, he kindly demurs. “That I’ll admit to?” he says. “Let’s just say I’ve been at this a good long time.”
Up next in the still for his 1512 label is a wheat whiskey, as well as his version of an Irish poitín — a potato-based white whiskey made in a tradition that dates to the 16th century, distilled down to 160 proof, and cut to 105 proof for drinking. The stuff was illegal in Ireland for centuries, too, because it was known as one of the strongest alcoholic beverages on earth. Cimino says you can expect some nice pear and apple notes on that one, but we’d suggest tiny sips if you don’t want your esophagus to fall out.