Marsh and Jan Mokhtari were on a camping trip in Big Sur, California, with their young daughters in 2016 when they spotted a gray whale and her calf make their migratory journey up the Pacific Coastline. These massive mammals make one of the longest annual migrations at around 12,000 miles for a round trip. It was an inspiring sight, and in this moment, the idea for Gray Whale Gin was born.
“We were having a wonderful time and having these deep conversations, the kind that only happen when you’re on vacation and away from your nine-to-five jobs and daily chores at home,” Marsh said. “The conversation revolved around what we were doing with our lives,” added Jan. “In our limited time on this earth, were we using our superpowers to make a positive impact on this planet? Were we doing something that would make our daughters proud and teach them to be a force for good?”
Jan (an award-winning creative director and filmmaker who has worked for top advertising agencies and helped build some of the world’s most beloved brands) and her husband Marsh (a scientist who built a career hosting adventure and culinary TV shows like Perilous Journeys on National Geographic and Extreme Chef on Food Network) combined their talents to create a unique gin brand that not only tastes great but gives back.
Once the seed of an idea was planted, Jan leaned into her talents for brand storytelling and Marsh leaned into his culinary and science background to begin development. They spoke with other distillers and entrepreneurs in the spirits industry who generously gave their time and advice. “We poured our hearts and savings into creating Gray Whale Gin,” said Marsh.
They sold their home to help get their brand off the ground and spent years perfecting the recipe and bottle design.
The first batch of Gray Whale Gin was released in April of 2018.
Each bottle of Gray Whale Gin is made using six botanicals that are sustainably sourced along the migratory path of the Pacific gray whale, which begins in the warm lagoons of the Baja Peninsula and ends in the cool waters of the Arctic. “Each botanical is listed on the front of our bottle, and you can also see the Pacific Coastline inside of our whale tail logo,” said Jan. “After hundreds of iterations, we finally nailed down the perfect botanical balance.”
Limes (Temecula): “Our hand-zested limes are from an orchard in Temecula, California. The citrus is beautifully present on the nose and imparts a delicate sweetness to the gin.”
Mint (Santa Cruz): “The mint is from Pescadero, near Santa Cruz, California. This ingredient adds a cooling sweetness.”
Almonds (Capay Valley): “The almonds are from Capay Hills Orchard and add a wonderful creamy mouthfeel to the gin and a long lingering finish.”
Juniper (Big Sur): “The heart and soul of our multi-award-winning gin is our juniper from Big Sur. The Californian juniper adds a refined cedar quality.”
Fir tree (Sonoma): “The fir trees are located just outside the distillery in Sonoma, and they add a delicate, complementary flavor to our juniper berries.”
Kombu (Mendocino Coast): “Our ocean botanical (and Marsh’s personal favorite), our foraged kombu sea kelp, adds an earthy umami component that sets this gin apart from any other gin in the world.”
Beyond a brand name, logo, and ingredients, the gray whale has also inspired a conservation ethos. “Gray Whale Gin was founded on the notion that a spirit can bring people together for good times while also doing some good in the world,” said Jan. “And that principle guides everything we do.”
The striking bottle the gin is sold in, for example, is printed with organic paint, and the cork is biodegradable.
Gray Whale Gin donates a portion of their profits to Oceana, the largest organization in the world devoted to marine conservation.
Gray Whale Gin is also a member of One Percent for the Planet and has pledged to contribute at least one percent of their annual sales to environmental causes. Additionally, Gray Whale Gin upcycles their empty bottles to create candles scented with the gin’s botanicals. The candles are sold on their website, and 100% of candle sales benefit Oceana.
Grab some gin and make this refreshing cocktail at home.
Whale Hello There
2 ounces Gray Whale Gin
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce agave syrup
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and pour in the gin, lime juice, lemon juice, and agave. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled coupe or martini glass, or strain over a rocks glass filled with ice, depending on preference. Garnish with a lemon twist and serve immediately.