Seattle is a big, busy town, growing at warp speed and either loved or hated, depending on the weather. It’s also home to one of the fastest growing strongholds of craft distilleries in the country.
During my recent two-week visit, I decided to battle the traffic, which truly is as bad or maybe even worse than Los Angeles and visit as many distilleries as possible.
Deciding on which distilleries to visit was a challenge in itself, but using the Washington Distillery Trail map helped and I sorted through the areas that were within reach of my base near the airport. I broke it into three areas: the city itself, south of the city around Kent and north around Woodinville. Then I chose distilleries that are privately owned, which pretty much guarantees that they fall in the craft distillery designation.
Half way through my visit and after seven distillery visits, one thing became very clear. None came anywhere close to fitting a mold! Each distillery is unique, both in location, people, and the spirits they create.
What originally drew me in to exploring craft distilleries were the people. Distillers are such a unique conglomeration of personalities, ages and backgrounds ranging from young millennials to gray-haired ex-executives and all kinds in between. But there are common threads running through this diverse group.
Without exception, they are all passionate about what they are doing. Their passion is obvious in the intensity of their voices while talking about their products. And it’s obvious in the care and attention given to the spirits they produce. In a capital-intensive industry, some have leveraged homes to buy the equipment and rent or buy the space. Others use their “regular” jobs to fund the distillery or have a supportive and understanding partner who holds the traditional job. All are completely committed to making their endeavors work.
Another common thread is the combination of art, or creativity, and science that makes up distilling. The idea of distilling and producing spirits as art and as a form of creativity runs deep. Combining it with science often produces examples that could qualify the maker as a “mad scientist,” and almost all the distilleries have a tucked away area for experimentation and R&D.
Some distillers create distilleries that are tiny, and where the stills look like they’re cobbled together with leftover hardware and baling wire. Others create distilleries that qualify as steampunk heaven, with all the shiny copper stills and valves and pipes and switches. And others are truly works of art, with meticulous engineering and design.
As I embark on my second week of exploring Seattle-area distilleries, traveling a little further out of town, I’m certain I will continue to enjoy and benefit from another thread running through the industry: the hospitality and generosity of time everyone is affording me, making my visits even more enjoyable.