Building His Dream at 3 Howls Distillery

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Thank goodness for Waze!

As someone not familiar with Seattle’s streets and neighborhoods, I was lucky to have my virtual assistant along for the ride to SODO, South Seattle’s up and coming area, in search of 3 Howls Distillery. 

Traditionally an industrial area, the original sawmills and railyards, metal shops and warehouses are slowly giving way to gentrification and a burgeoning entertainment and nightlife scene, with bars, restaurants, clubs and event spaces opening up across the district.

 Will Maschmeier and Annie, the hooch hound

Will Maschmeier and Annie, the hooch hound

Barely half a mile south of the two Seattle sports arenas, Safeco and Century Link Fields, 3 Howls Distillery is tucked away on one of the inconspicuous roads branching off 4th Avenue. Bounded on one side by the Light Rail tracks, the distillery occupies a 5,000-square-foot warehouse.

Distillery dog, Annie a sweet Boston Terrier and inspiration behind the 3 Howls label, greeted me as owner and head distiller, Will Maschmeier emerged from the back of the still room. Clad in shorts, t-shirt, and gum boots, it was obvious he is a working distiller! 

Will, like so many craft distillers, has a very eclectic background, one that includes an extensive medical background and a love of whiskey. And he, like a lot of other people, was laid off during the recession. 

“There are not many times in your life you get the opportunity to do what you love doing in your dreams,” he said. “Nobody is dumb enough to give up a good paying job to get into something like this,” he laughs, remarking that opening a distillery was something he thought he would do when he retired. 

Starting on a shoestring with a small loan, he said he went for it, developing and improving recipes he had been messing with as a home brewer and distiller. He had also visited Scotland and visited numerous whisky distilleries there, and closer to his Ohio home, traveled and tasted his way along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, developing a taste for what he wanted to produce. 

He started with “a ton of different products,” but has pared it down to stabilize the brand image, with two products each of whiskey, rum, gin and vodka, plus occasionally a couple of exclusive, limited edition products.

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3 Howls was the first craft distillery in Washington to produce rum and he drew on his experiences in Costa Rica to create the Spiced and award-winning Gold Rum. A distiller/rectifier license is required in Washington as ingredients for rum don’t meet the 50-percent rule. This rule states that at least 50-percent of product used in craft distilling must be local to Washington. Will commented that despite the license being considerably more expensive than a craft distiller license, it gives him the freedom to create whatever he wants in the 300-gallon stainless steel, copper-packed still.

As a one-man operation, he focuses on his retail sales, providing consistent high quality and well-priced products, rather than schmoozing the bars and bartenders. “I can’t play the game with the bars,” which he claims are often looking for kickbacks to sell his spirits. But he says, “I rely on bars to support me because they like me and they like my brand, not because they’re expecting free Seahawk tickets!” 

Will splits his 5000 square-foot space with cider maker Chris Brownrigg, who often incorporates botanicals and spices from 3 Howls into his products, plus matures some in 3 Howls rum barrels. As both operate their businesses single-handed, having a helping hand nearby can be useful when it comes time for bottling and other labor-intensive tasks.

And perhaps even more importantly, hooch pooch Annie has a friend to play with in Millie, Chris’ pug, during those long, hard days at the distillery.

3 Howls legend

Tasting Room - Drop In Hours
Wednesday & Friday
9am - 1pm
Drop in hours vary day to day. Before visiting, please schedule a tour or check our current status to see if we are open.

3 Howls Distillery
426 S. Massachusetts St.
Seattle, WA 98134
P: (206) 747-8400
speak@3howls.com