The Craft Distilling Boom in Washington

Many of you are familiar with the Dry Fly Distillery in Spokane, the first legal distillery in Washington State since prohibition. They have been operational since 2007, and thanks to tremendous influence on their part the laws regarding still operation in the state have eased, making the Washington craft distiller a reality. As of early 2010, it has become much easier to obtain the necessary permits, and distilleries can now have tasting rooms and sell their product direct to the public. As of today there are 9 operations with product in bottle, and many more are just firing up the stills. Were mostly seeing vodkas at this point, but that is the logical first step giving distillers a chance to work on recipes and practice getting a clean distillation.

Here are a few of my favorites:


Soft Tail Spirits:

In 2008 they were the second distillery, shortly after Pacific Distillery, to tuck themselves in amongst the Woodinville wineries. Soft Tail started out making several different styles of fine Grappa with grape pommace from their neighbors. The Grappa Sangiovese brought home a silver medal from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and they have some unique and interesting styles in the works including some barrel aged spirits.
Soft Tail’s bread and butter is their Washington State apple vodka. No, not apple flavored vodka, it is actually distilled from apples, which is great for those concerned about gluten in their liquor. It took home bronze from the World Spirits Competition and is one of the cleanest tasting domestic vodkas I have tried. They just got a listing with the liquor board so keep an eye out for it at your local state store.

Sound Spirits:

Steven Stone has been a busy man trying to get his distillery up and running while working his day job. Sound Spirits has become the first legally operational distillery in Seattle proper since state prohibition began in 1915.
His first product to hit the market is the Ebb & Flow vodka made from Washington barley. This is a great product for someone who likes their vodka with a little character. It has a nice malty nose and great fruit characteristics, coupled with a very clean distillation.
Next up is his Ebb & Flow Gin which I’ve had the pleasure of tasting and can’t wait to put it on my shelf. Steven has tasted me on a couple of other projects in the works but has sworn me to secrecy. All I can say is keep a very close eye on what he is doing.

Woodinville Whiskey:

The newest and most promising distillery with open doors, Woodinville Whiskey, will be the first in the state to produce a true non-aged designated Bourbon. Unfortunately for us that means a minimum of four years in barrel.
Mentored by David Pickerell, retired Maker’s Mark Master Distiller, these guys have the potential to rival some of the great American whiskey’s. The Headlong white dog whiskey is a taste of what goes into the barrels before the vanilla and spice from the oak is incorporated. This is one of my favorite white dogs on the market right now. In comparison to other un-aged whiskey’s, such as Buffalo Trace Mash #1, I have to say it makes me really excited for what’s to come. Hopefully they will let out a young whiskey before the Bourbon is done, just to tease us a little more.
Also available from them is, of course, Peabody Jones vodka. It is distilled from Washington wheat one time through a double column still creating a nice clean product while retaining some great toast and vanilla flavors.

Up and Coming:

Project V Distillery & Sausage Company

Batch 206 (currently made in Oregon until license is approved)

Wishkah River Distillery

Others in the state:

Bainbridge Organic Distillers

Pacific Distillery

Ellensburg Distillery

Black Heron Spirits

Blue Flame Spirits

Dry Fly Distillery

Let me know if I forgot anyone.

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About John Ueding

Craft bartender and spirits enthusiast. I love my work!
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7 Responses to The Craft Distilling Boom in Washington

  1. Pingback: Washington Whiskey? Distilleries Taking Over Woodinville « Beer Blotter: Seattle based. World focused.

  2. Pingback: Best in Blog #80: Whisky News and Tasting Notes on the Web | Whisky Party

  3. Hi John,
    Just a minor correction to a superb blog. Pacific Distillery was actually the first distillery in Woodinville, and the second licensed production distillery in Washington State since prohibition. Feel free to contact us for a visit to the distillery.
    Cheers,
    Marc Bernhard
    Pacific Distillery LLC

    • John Ueding says:

      Sorry Marc,
      My research has failed me. Correction made. I am a big fan of your products, Voyager has been my go to gin for cocktails since I discovered it a couple of years ago, and I’m always turning my guests on to it. Pacifique is the only absinthe I stock at my bar, and use it regularly for mixing.
      -John

  4. Pingback: Beer Blotter: Seattle based. World focused. » Washington Whiskey? Distilleries Taking Over Woodinville

  5. Nate says:

    Great to know, interesting there are so many vodkas in the state. Woodinville is still going strong to hold it down for whiskey drinkers!

    • John Ueding says:

      Nate,

      Thanks for your comment! Vodka is the quickest spirit to make and get to market so almost every craft distiller starts on that route. Since writing this post Washington state now has over 70 approved craft distilling licenses and 2 dozen distiller/rectifier licenses. It’s getting pretty crazy!
      Yes, Woodinville Whiskey Co. is making great product with their ‘Small Barrel Collection’ and will be releasing their full-on ‘Straight Bourbon and Rye’ in the next year and a half. I’ve had the opportunity to try the bourbon at 2.5 years and all I can say is get excited!
      If you are a whiskey guy there are a couple of other great Washington distilleries with product laid down in barrels that will be releasing around the end of this year but I cannot speak of them yet. For now check out the Waitsburg Bourbon from Oola.
      Guess it’s getting to be time for another blog post on Washington spirits.

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