Seattle Distilling Company
Vashon Island, WA
Things happen differently on Vashon Island near Seattle Washington. On this one island in Puget Sound there exists the foundations of a coffee empire, the first factory of a sporting goods conglomerate, and multiple wineries. This industriousness is amazing given that the only way to access the island is by ferry and there are only small roads leading down its length. Out of this history and quirky infrastructure emerges the Seattle Distilling Company, a craft distillery that is the reflection of its home.
It becomes apparent upon visiting the Distillery that nothing brought onto Vashon Island leaves, it gets repurposed. Whiskey barrels are aged in a used shipping container. The founders of the Distillery picked up the shipping container because its prior owner had no more use for it and didn’t wish to incur the expense of having it shipped off the island. The barrels were once used by the island's wineries because, again, it is far better to hand them off to a neighbor than pay the ferry to ship them away. The barrels are re-coopered and charred on-site so that they are ready to flavor the next generation of alcohol. The local sharing economy continues with the still, which was welded by a local artist and is a sight to behold for no other reason than the beautiful quality of its seams.
The products made by the distillers at the Seattle Distilling Company also reflect the founders and their community. The coffee liqueur is made from coffee beans roasted next door (what else would you expect from Seattle?). The brandy is distilled from Vashon wines and the same winery makes a port from the Distillery's spirits. The Distillery's grains are sourced from central Washington, only two hours away, and are put to use in whiskeys, vodkas, and gin. In fact, it is fair to say that every bottle produced by the Seattle Distilling Company represents the Northwest, as only gin botanicals are sourced outside of Washington with the farthest ingredient traveling 250 miles from Northern California. Someday soon, they hope to have their malting house on-site to control not just the ingredients, but also the quality of each flavor as it enters the still and goes into the bottle.
According to co-founder Ishan Dillon, the Seattle Distilling Company is his passion because of its connection to his community and also because it allows him to put his scientific training to good use. Ishan was not born into a distilling family. Instead, he has a bio-chemistry background and worked in real estate and architecture. Ultimately, that work wasn't fulfilling to him. He missed science and started home-brewing to satiate that part of his interests. His brewing hobby became his professional escape and that is what drew him to build his own still and start his own distillery. Now, every day he gets to conduct R&D on new products, new production techniques, and new flavors.
To Ishan, being a distiller means finally connecting his love of chemistry with his admiration for his surroundings. His most exhilarating experience is when he gets to present his spirit to a new customer and see their response. Knowing how his entire community had a role to play in each drop of his spirits, each bottle is so much more than just a fermented mash and aged ethanol. It is the product of an entire island.
The Seattle Distilling Company is quintessentially local and decidedly Seattle. Drinking its spirits is experiencing the work of wineries, chemists, and craftsmen. It is a trip around the block, on an island, in the Sound.
To learn more about the Seattle Distilling Company visit its website at http://seattledistilling.com/
*Correction from the audio interview: Seattle Distilling Company won "Best Spirits/Distillery in Washington" with Evening Magazine, not Sunset Magazine