Jarrett Tomal refers to himself as “a real whiskey drinker.” He’s long had a passion for the drink and an interest in distilling.
Today, he is president of Parliament Distillery, a small micro-distillery in Sumner. It’s a small operation, mostly consisting of Tomal and Matt McCartney, a friend and operations manager.
They recently put out their first batch of aged whiskey under the brand of Ghost Owl whiskey, although they’ve been selling unaged white whiskey for some time.
“I’d been tinkering with the idea of moonshining when I was younger, and I always had a passion for whiskey,” Tomal said.
He never thought it was feasible, though. He didn’t feel as though he had the resources to get into the business, and he didn’t know how he could turn a profit in the time it would take to age whiskey.
That changed when he read a magazine article about white whiskey, and he subsequently tried some from a distillery in New York.
Tomal realized he could sell white whiskey out of a distillery while the rest of the whiskey aged.
“I talked to a few friends, got a few friends to invest, and then basically had to just believe in the dream,” he said.
Tomal said part of the reason was that he didn’t like what he saw in many of the distilleries he saw popping up.
“It seemed to me a lot of these guys were money guys, lawyers, accountants, guys who are in it for the business,” he said. “I’ve read about them in magazines, and some of these guys don’t even drink. How can you make a good spirit if you don’t even drink?”
Tomal likes to think of Parliament’s operation as “blue-collar branded.” He spent years pouring concrete, and McCartney spent years working in similar construction-related fields.
Tomal said there’s a certain kind of work ethic at the distillery. Work goes into cleaning and maintaining equipment, and they often work as many as 15 hours a day.
They use a large 50-year-old still from Portugal that they refer to as “the Kremlin” due to its appearance, as well as a smaller still they’ve dubbed “R2D2” that was made by a moonshiner in West Virginia.
Tomal takes pride in the homegrown nature of Parliament’s operation, and in the community of micro-distilleries that have established themselves in Washington.
“There are better and different whiskeys out there,” he said. “You don’t have to drink Jim Beam and Jack Daniels, and (the whiskeys are) made in your back yard.”
McCartney said they’ve been happy with the response they’ve gotten so far.
“We appreciate the support we get from Sumner,” he said.
However, for such a small venture, he added it’s a struggle to get recognition.
Currently, Ghost Owl is sparsely carried.
Its biggest carrier is Trader Joe’s, although the partners have received enthusiastic testimonials from Trader Joes’ employees.
Ghost Owl whiskey is available for purchase at the distillery, 13708 24th St. E., Suite 103. McCartney said people are welcome to come by for tours and tastings.
The white whiskey, not available in stores, is also sold at Parliament Distillery. The distillery was represented recently at the Rocks Distillery Festival in Snohomish.
For more information, visit www.parliament-distillery.com.Kevin Knodell is a freelance reporter for the Herald.