Growing up in Southern California, aloe vera was ubiquitous, something meant to soothe sunburns and heal wounds. None of us thought of drinking it.

Kurt Charron, owner of Chareau in Camarillo

Kurt Charron never thought of drinking it either . . . initially. Charron started working in restaurants at age 16, eventually ending up as a bartender in Los Angeles. Food was nothing new for him, his family having a dairy operation in Canada. But Charron felt the urge to learn distilling. He was having a cocktail in New York that had aloe juice in it, and this prompted his curiosity. So he spent two years learning to distill in his kitchen prior to launching Chareau. So what, exactly, is it?

Chareau is a blend of cucumber, spearmint, lemon peel, grapes and aloe.

“It’s all real stuff from local farms,” Charron says. “Each ingredient comes from Ventura or Santa Barbara county, with the exception of the aloe vera, which comes from San Diego.”

Charron distills ingredients based on the season, so grapes come in roughly in September, cucumbers in March or April; the aloe vera is distilled year round. Each ingredient is distilled separately from the others, then blended together. It might seem like the world doesn’t need yet another distilled spirit, no matter how quirky. Chareau, however, is already producing 10,000 cases with placements in about 4,000 bars and restaurants across the U.S., including Slate, Basil and Mint (both in Camarillo) and the Eureka Burger chain.

But why Camarillo? Charron was planning his distillery in Los Angeles but it was a two- to three-year process. The city of Camarillo, conversely, approved everything in 30 days.

“Camarillo was calling, the weather was perfect, there’s better water and air quality here and the city was great to work with,” he says, happily ensconced in his present location for the last four years.

On the nose there is definitely a strong sense of aloe with its subtle cactus-type flavors. The spicy mint and citrus notes fill out the back palate. More specifically, the mint makes Chareau not only refreshing on its own, but a very good mixer. Charron says that it’s often used in place of tequila, so a Tom Collins cocktail, for example, would get the Chareau riff.  

In addition to Chareau, Charron’s Icarus Brandy, made with California pinot noir grapes, was released in April. Certainly there will be more to come.