While brandy was the siren’s call, they now make a vast selection of local craft spirits. From gin to wild rose liqueur, San Juan Island Distillery has it all.(Photo: Captain and Clark)
A revolution has come to Washington state: people all along the Puget Sound have been liberated from the stereotypes of spirits. No longer do we immediately think of Kentucky for bourbon, Russia for vodka, or England for gin. Today the people of Washington are leading the charge in finely distilled local booze that is transforming the way we will all think of what’s in our glasses.
A legislative change in 2008, spearheaded in great part by Washington distillery Dry Fly, now allows micro-distilleries to exist. This coup has lead to a slew of chemical engineers, lawyers and scientists with passion for good whiskey to emerge from the shadows and begin changing the craft alcohol landscape. Most of this powerhouses, like Gig Harbor’s Heritage Distilling or San Juan Island’s distillery of the same name, began by creating whiskeys or vodkas with very traditional methods. It wasn’t long before they all began experimenting with local flavors or botanicals and truly changing the scene.
Heritage Distilling Co. in Gig Harbor, Wash. took the whole process a step further opening their doors to the public. Since it is still illegal to own a home still, the geniuses over at Heritage decided to open their floor up to the consumer. With the My Batch program, they allow passionate customers to come in and learn about the process of distillation and distill their own booze. They even allow participants to age it in small 10-gallon oak barrels. The so-called Cask Club has provided some amazing results. “We have taken our customers' small-batch liquors to international competitions and walked away with gold medals,” says co-founder Justin Stiefel.
Heritage isn’t the only one reinventing the way that we understand our relationship with liquor, from organic ingredients to whiskey aged on a houseboat, the ever growing list of distilleries around the Puget Sound is re-writing the story of American distilling.
Embark on a golden circle distillery trail of the Puget Sound by browsing through the stops in the gallery above.
Plus, see standout Washington craft breweries below.