SEATTLE - Washington is known for its wines and craft breweries, but now distilled spirits are having their moment. Washington distilleries are even being recognized as the best in the country, but breaking into the business isn’t easy.
Whiskey, bourbon, vodka, local distilled spirits are being showcased at the Proof Washington distillers festival in Fremont.
“The wine has had its time, now it’s whiskey’s time. The craft beer is everywhere, and it’s fun, but I think this where the next trend is coming,” said Brock Brady who attended the event.
According to the Washington Distillers Guild, Washington state is ranked third in the country for the number of distilleries and known as the top spot for producing the largest concentration of American single malt whiskey. Washington held the number one spot for a long time but recently bumped to third behind New York and California.
"In Washington state, there are 890 wineries, almost 500 breweries and now 110 distilleries,” said Jason Parker, treasurer of the Washington Distillers Guild.
Parker has been fighting for legislation to get distillers the same kind of privileges the beer and wine industry have. Until a law passed in 2008, distillers couldn’t sell directly to the public or have tasting rooms.
"Now what we’re trying to do is unify all the distillers and lower that spirit tax, which you probably know is 20.5%, the highest in the nation,” said Parker.
"As a distiller in Washington you have to use primarily Washington ingredients,” said Ginny Solomon with the Heritage Distilling Company.
In Washington state, at least 50% of ingredients distillers use have to be local
"Our Batch Number 12, it took us 12 tries to get it correct,” said Solomon.
The Heritage Distilling Company, based in Gig Harbor, is the most awarded distiller in North America every year since 2014 by the American Distilling Institute.
“Heritage is primarily woman-owned,” said Solomon
Serving up whiskey, gin, brown sugar infused bourbon and “23, 24 flavors of vodka,” said Soloman.
Heritage says they pride themselves on local stories and becoming a part of Washington’s history. They say this is an exciting time for distillers in our state.
"Coffee has been great here, wine has been great here, we’re known for wonderful food, it was almost a natural extension to have distilled spirits. So now it’s happening,” said Parker.