The first make-your-own spirits distillery is opening in the country and it’s right here in Gig Harbor. Heritage Distilling Company has been in progress for more than a year, the project of Justin and Jennifer Stiefel. The grand opening for the distillery will be this weekend.
What makes Heritage Distillery such an intriguing business is that spirits enthusiasts can prepare small-batch spirits legally at the distillery thanks to its federal licensing, according to the operators. Unlike wine and beer, which are legal to make at home in small batches for private consumption only, distilling spirits at home is illegal, not to mention dangerous and potentially explosive.
Here’s how the distillery says it will work with amateur distillers: “You choose from our pre-approved recipes, you help run a micro version of our larger still and you help bottle and label the product.” Prices range from $199-$299. Alternately, customers can work with the distillery to customize their own aged whiskey.
In addition to the DIY distilling, Heritage Distilling will craft and bottle its own spirits. When I spoke with the Stiefels this summer, they told me they were planning to start with white whiskey, followed by vodka and gin. Later they may craft more unusual liquors they say would take their distillery from “farm to bottle" with ingredients like locally roasted coffee or botanicals. In keeping with state guidelines for craft distillers, the distillery will use at least 51 percent Washington sourced ingredients.
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This is the first spirits business for the couple. Justin has a background as a lawyer and chemical engineer. Jennifer has a teaching background. At Heritage’s Gig Harbor location, there will be a tasting room where visitors can try free samples or purchase liquor directly from the distillery.
Distilleries in Washington have steadily opened in the recent years since liquor rules changed in 2008 to allow for craft distilleries with tasting rooms. King County has seen a surge in craft distilleries. So far, Pierce County is home to one other established licensed distillery - Carbon Glacier Distillery, which opened in Wilkeson earlier this year. Another distillery is on the way - Port Steilacoom Distillery in Steilacoom. Other craft distilleries in Pierce County have applied for licensing in recent months.
Heritage Distilling CompanyWhat: Grand opening, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday Nov. 3 and noon-4 p.m. Sun. Nov. 4.Where: 3207 57th St. Ct. N.W., Gig Harbor (behind the Inn at Gig Harbor)Info: 253-509-0008, heritagedistilling.com