Shopping for local grown-up beverages now extends beyond wine and beer to hard liquor. Four craft distilleries opened in the South Sound in 2012 - making craft distilleries one of the fastest growing beverage trends this region ever has seen (will cideries be next? Please?). Local distillers craft small batches of vodka, gin, whiskey and a handful of other spirits. All have tasting rooms you can visit to try before you buy. Read on.
Before you go: To buy: You can buy spirits by the bottle, but the law does limit the quantity to two per person. That is why shopping in numbers is a good thing.Tasting room etiquette: Per state law, samples must be free, limited to two ounces per person, and mixers and add-ins aren’t allowed.Pricing: Most bottles at the distilleries mentioned here are in the $30-$40 range.
Port Steilacoom DistilleryWhere: 1601 Lafayette St., SteilacoomTasting room hours: 3:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays.Info: 253-212-0090 or Facebook here Products: Homeport, a craft distilled gin made in the style of a London dry gin. Chambers Bay vodka is a neutral spirit distilled from blackberry honey. Look soon for Wicked Wind, a spiced distilled spirit. Priced $30 and up.
Pierce County’s newest craft spirits distillery opened Dec. 7. Port Steilacoom Distillery is a micro distillery started by Kevin and Jennifer Laughlin Stewart, who will keep their day jobs in healthcare while operating the tasting room and distillery Wednesdays-Sundays. Their craft spirits use honey as a base, which the distillers say gives a light sweetness and smooth finish. Laughlin Stewart believes his craft distillery might be the tiniest in the state, or close to it. They operate out of a 600-square-foot space near Bair Drug. The space has potential to grow, but for now, the distillery is small and will stay that way as they build a following.
Carbon Glacier DistilleryWhere: 533 Church St., WilkesonTasting room hours: Noon-6 p.m. Mondays, noon-6 p.m. Fridays-SundaysInfo: 360-989-9700, carbonglacierdistillery.comProducts: Stocking Stuffer whiskey is a recent addition, but they also make B4 vodka and dry London gin.
Take a drive well beyond Buckley to the tiny community of Wilkeson - the county's second smallest city - and you'll find Carbon Glacier Distillery, the project of Keith Quimby and Chris Lyons.
Their small tasting room is right in the middle of downtown Wilkeson, which is a small row of businesses that also includes a saloon, market and coffee roasting company. Want a tour of the distillery's back room where the spirits are made? No problem, they'll give you one. The owners like to make sure visitors are aware of Wilkeson's rich history - they'll point you in the direction of the coke ovens, leftovers from the town's former life in coal mining, as well as the nearby historic school.
Heritage Distilling CompanyWhere: 3207 57th St. Court NW, Gig HarborTasting room hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Tuesdays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 1-5 p.m. SundaysInfo: 253-509-0008, heritagedistilling.comProducts: Two lines - there's Elk Rider, a more robust line of vodka, gin and whiskey. There's also Wherskey, a softer tasting line of vodka, gin and whiskey.
Heritage Distilling Company in Gig Harbor is the project of Justin and Jennifer Stiefel. In November, they opened their distillery in the same complex as where 7 Seas opened its first tap room. The distillery not only makes and sells its own vodka, gin and whiskey, the owners say Heritage also is the first craft distillery in the country to offer DIY spirits to customers who can use the distillery's recipes and equipment to make their own spirits. Prices begin at $99. Unlike making beer and wine at home, which is perfectly legal, distilling spirits at home is illegal, which is what makes this a great opportunity to try distilling without worrying about blowing up your kitchen or attracting the attention of the feds. Here's something neat: When I talked to the owners this summer, they said they're taking their distillery from “farm to bottle” with locally sourced ingredients.
Parliament DistilleryWhere: 13708 24th St. E., SumnerTasting room hours: Noon-6:30 p.m. dailyInfo: 253-447-8044, parliament-distillery.comProduct: Whiskey
This new distillery in Sumner calls its spirit Pacific Northwest moonshine. The whiskey name Ghost Owl comes with a funny story, which you can read here on their website
Editor’s note: This gifting series features edibles from South Sound food businesses. Check back daily through Dec. 23 for something new.