When David Jackson opened Perfect Soul whiskey in San Marcos in late 2015, he entered what is still a pretty young San Diego spirits market. However, he'd already built a career working with hard liquor. "I've literally been studying people and liquor my entire adult life," says Jackson, a longtime bartender and nightclub manager who officially made the move into spirit production when California eased regulations, allowing small-batch distilleries to be commercially viable.
"They loosened up the laws a little bit, and I literally just switched sides," Jackson says, explaining that many distributors he bought from as a bar manager have proven valuable contacts for this side of the business. "All these people I used to order from, I now sell to them." He also points out a benefit to being on the production side: "I go home at night."
Make that most nights. Perfect Soul is open to the public on weekend evenings. However, outside its tasting room, its spirits may be found online, behind the bars of the Cohn Restaurant Group, in Krisp markets, and at Escondido's Holiday Wine Cellar. As this demand already stretches the company's small-batch supply, Jackson recently hired Perfect Soul's first employee to keep the still active later hours, so he can grow into more accounts.
Despite the company's name, the product line consists of both whiskey and rum. "I'm a rum guy," Jackson admits, "but in the States, whiskey outsells rum four or five to one." So he launched with a potent, yet low kick, whiskey aged in five-gallon barrels that suits his preference — closer to Irish whiskey than it is to bourbon — "The smoother, the better, for me," he adds.
And the cleaner, the better. Working in the bar business, Jackson witnessed the lingering effects of mass-produced liquor. "When you run a nightclub," he recounts, "everybody goes hard — drinks, the whole nine. The problem with the regular stuff is, you were hungover, you hurt. I needed everybody to show back up."
He noticed the cleaner the spirits his staff drank, the more likely they were to show up to work the following night, ready to sling cocktails at a fast clip. So, he made clean spirits a focus of Perfect Soul, employing one advantage small-batch production maintains over the volume and reach of large-scale producers. "I can't compete with these guys financially," he says. "All I have is quality, so that's all I do."
215 S. Pacific Street #104, San Marcos
Consequently, bottles do not sell as cheaply as mass-market booze. "We're the most expensive liquor on the shelf in San Diego," Jackson points out, retailing around 60 bucks in stores, 40 in the tasting room.
There's also more actual spirit per bottle — each spirit weighs in at 100 proof. Fittingly, a sign at the tasting room implores visitors to, "Please drink like a Mature Rockstar, not an Out-of-Control Rookie."