What to Expect at a Distillery Tasting

From Washington Distillery Trail

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and go find a tasting room serving up some of your favorite spirits. Good call! Will you be ushered into a speakeasy with a 46-page cocktail menu? Is it just in some guy’s basement? Are you supposed to ‘take shots’?

The first piece of advice I can offer is ‘do not be afraid’! Chances are you’ve partaken in tastings at a local brewery or winery and while those can be two different experiences, distillery tastings are not much different. The beautiful thing about our state is the vast number of distillers and different spirits being produced. The trail will help you find what you’re looking for in that regard, but be prepared that just like the individuality of the spirits, the tastings rooms often follow suit.

It may well be that the person(s) manning the bar are either the distillers/owners themselves or people who work closely with them, so be prepared to be educated on those spirits and some of the history and story of what goes into making them. It’s rarely a”here’s your sample glass, now please go over to that corner and we’ll be back around in 10 minutes” kind of deal. You’re usually getting a personal experience with the people who are truly passionate about what’s in the bottle.

In the last year or so it has become (legally) easier to offer more sample variety in the form of mixers and other unique ingredients. A few years ago distillers could only serve their spirits straight, not even being allowed to add water or ice to the glass. Now, distilleries are allowed to use any non-alcoholic ingredient to add to their spirits including mixers like tonic, ginger beer, juice, bitters etc. This means that if you aren’t accustomed to enjoying spirits straight (‘neat’ is the proper terminology), you’ll likely be able to taste a distiller’s products in the fashion you are used to at home and in restaurants.

Costs? It all varies based on the distillery but in most cases tastings range from free to around $10-$15 depending on what’s included. You can also buy bottles on-site to help support the distillery if you like their spirits. For some distilleries, this is their main source of revenue and if they don’t distribute, possibly the only place to find that unique bottle. Go forth, taste, and enjoy!