Washington State is known for its rain more than its whiskey. But it does have some local distilleries - Dry Fly in Spokane, Bainbridge Organic Distillers in Bainbridge, and Fremont Mischief Distillery in Seattle. One up-and-coming distillery is Woodenville Whiskey Co. They have had white dog and vodka for awhile, but just last Saturday released their first American whiskey and bourbon. Fans apparently lined up early in the morning to test it out.
Mom and I just happened to show up the day after the release, looking around for some local whiskey. Woodenville is in Washington wine country, but those who follow the whiskey scene knew where to come for the amber goods. The cozy tasting room was packed with fans curious to try some of the new whiskey.
And it is young - aged in 30 gallon barrels (smaller than normal), the whiskey is just under two years old. The distillery only opened in 2010. The bourbon tastes young, too. The American whiskey is lighter. The tastes are distinctly different, leading many people to go back and forth trying to decide which of the $40 bottles to buy.
One man shrugged after not being able to choose. "I'll take one of each."
Another asked bartender Sherri which one she likes best.
"On which day?" she quipped.
She said the American whiskey would be "nice for tailgating."
"It would be nice for 18 holes of golf," someone answered.
There were a lot of guys in there. Other than me and my mom, all the women in there looked like they had been dragged by either a husband or girlfriend and went for the vodka. Many men tasted, bought, and left. The tastings are free, from noon to 5 p.m. We stayed for the 4 p.m. tour.
Through a door is a big room with a small distillery. Grain is stacked in huge bags on the shelves, and barrels stack up to the ceiling, branded "bourbon," "rye," and "experimental."
Matt, our tour guide, is a research scientist in biotechnology by day and a distiller on the weekend. He pointed to one-ton bags of grain from Washington and Rye from Montana. Then to the barrels, explaining that oak is used because it is the best wood to hold the liquid, but also for the flavor, such as vanilla, that it adds to the whiskey. Bourbon requires new charred oak barrels, so once they are used, local Washington brewers like to buy them for beer.
In the next room, he showed where the grain is ground into flour, then heads to the mash cooker and into the stills in a very Willie Wonka-looking type set-up. You are allowed to run your finger under the newly distilled alcohol for a lick to taste why the liquid needs some water, then some time aging in barrels to drink it by the glass.