Sipping Spirits

A tour of Eastside distilleries

Photo by Brad Cole Photography; Woodinville Whiskey Co.;Soft tail spirits ©2009 James Lupori, used under a creative commons attribution license.

Washington is renowned as home to some of the country’s most exquisite wines and crafty brews, but, in the past several years, another intoxicating category has been added to Washington’s boozy repertoire: Spirits. Since passing a bill in 2008 allowing for the production of liquor in Washington, local distillers have been busy perfecting bottles of small-batch spirits. Whether taking a traditional approach to production or exercising more creativity, these local distillers pour their hearts and souls into every bottle made. From Seattle to Bellingham, Spokane, Aberdeen, and everywhere in-between, distilling is becoming an increasingly popular niche trade in Washington, and the Eastside hasn’t hesitated to join in the fun. For many years the wine industry has dominated the Eastside, with more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms located in Woodinville Wine Country and beyond. The area iconic for its reds and whites has seen the likes of everything from beer and cider to mead and spirits take root in the region, providing Eastside residents and visitors alike with something new to sip on.

Woodinville Whiskey Co.

While one might expect a whiskey distillery to feel like the odd man out opening up shop in a city known for its more than 100-plus wineries, Woodinville Whiskey Co. is anything but — having quickly grown into a popular destination for sips of barrel-aged, handcrafted whiskey.

Orlin Sorenson, co-owner of Woodinville Whiskey Co., says the response from customers and the community has been unbelievable. “There are about 100 licensed wineries in Woodinville,” explains Sorenson. “So to have the four or five distilleries — and even a handful of breweries — here gives people a different option. Especially for those who aren’t wine drinkers, but who still want to be a part of the tasting experience.”

Sorenson founded Woodinville Whiskey Co. in 2010 with business partner and fellow whiskey aficionado Brett Carlile. Sorenson and Carlile wanted to add their contribution to what they call the “Whiskey Revolution,” and decided to create quality, handcrafted, barrel-aged whiskey made from the best ingredients.

WW7.26Under the mentorship of Maker’s Mark master distiller David Pickerell and backed by quality ingredients, cutting-edge equipment and a tireless desire to create premium, Washington-made whiskey, Woodinville Whiskey Co. has become a nationally-recognized whiskey distillery in a short span of time. Sorenson says he’s most proud that Woodinville Whiskey Co. has been able to be so successful without taking any shortcuts. “We’ve made every drop of our products while sticking to our core beliefs,” explains Sorenson. “We’re so proud we’ve been able to do this.”

Providing a quality product created by a team of passionate whiskey drinkers, Woodinville Whiskey Co. offers a tasting experience that’s both authentic and delicious. The tasting room is open daily from 11am to 5pm, and for $5, visitors (age 21 and older) can enjoy sipping from Woodinville Whiskey Co.’s flavorful selection. Not a whiskey drinker? Not a problem. Woodinville Whiskey Co. has something for everyone. You can try the Woodinville barrel-aged whiskey syrup, or take a tour of the distillery and get a behind-the-scenes peek at how whiskey is made.

4509 Woodinville-Redmond Road N.E.,

Pacific Distillery

Just a stone throw away from Woodinville Whiskey Co., Pacific Distillery is yet another rising star among the Eastside’s growing distillery scene. But you won’t find whiskey at this Woodinville distillery. Instead, Pacific Distillery offers an aromatic selection of gin and absinthe, made in the traditional way and infused with a selection of premium, fragrant botanicals.

This family owned and operated distillery prides itself in offering “world-class, hand-made spirits using old-world methods, recipes and equipment.” Carrying over knowledge acquired from ownership of a small herb farm, Pacific Distillery understands the importance of using quality botanicals in their products, and creates each bottle of their gin and absinthe using a variety of imported botanicals from around the world, along with what’s growing fresh and local in their own backyard.

Visitors can take a tour of Pacific Distillery on Saturdays from noon to 5pm and see how Old World methods of distilling combined with premium ingredients make for a truly artisanal sipping experience.

1808 142nd Ave. N.E.

Soft-Tail-Spirits-(3)-by-James-Lupori-in-2009Soft Tail Spirits

Soft Tail Spirits, a Redmond-based distillery, started distilling in 2008 using traditional equipment (like the Old World, hammered copper grappa still from Portugal) to create authentic and traditional craft spirits.

Surrounded by nearly 100 wineries, Soft Tail Spirits set out with the intent to capitalize on the abundance of wasted wine grape pressings to create a variety of grappa style liquors. Now six years in, Soft Tail Spirits offers a selection of six different spirits for their customers to enjoy. Included in the line-up are four styles of grappa (Gailo, “Woodstock” Reserve, Bianco and Sangiovese) along with a vodka and limoncello, ripe for the sipping.

Soft Tail Spirits has won in several categories at the World Spirits Competition in San Francisco in 2010 and 2014, and has been recognized as the “groundbreakers of Grappa in the Northwest” by Sip Northwest.

You can taste what all the hype is about during a drop-in tour, held every Saturday at 2pm, 2:30pm, 3pm and 3:30pm, or schedule an alternate time to tour in advance. Tours are $20 per couple and includes a tasting and two signature shot glasses.

14356 Woodinville-Redmond Road N.E.

Skip Rock Distillers

Less than 15 miles north of Washington Wine Country in Snohomish, Skip Rock Distillers offers a variety of hand-crafted, artisanal spirits designed to “inspire the palate.”

Owner Ryan Hembree says Skip Rock creates spirits using locally-sourced ingredients. “We buy locally and direct from farmers. We also grow some of our own walnuts and blackberries,” explains Hembree. “This year we even grew triticale — a wheat-rye hybrid — for our whiskey.”

Hembree says what’s most exciting for him about Washington’s — and more specifically the Eastside’s — growing distillery scene is exploration. “Customers are finding they have more choices than the normal big brands. People are finding some pretty amazing spirits are being made right here in Washington state,” he says.

Skip Rock Distillers makes two types of vodka (including a Black Peppercorn Vodka), a white whiskey, rye whiskey, three types of fruit liqueurs and even a nocino, or, walnut liqueur. You can taste from Skip Rock’s selection of locally-inspired spirits at its tasting room, open Monday-Friday noon to 5pm and Saturday 11am-5pm.

104 Ave. C

is a staff writer at 425 magazine. Email her.
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