Washington is well known for its wine and beer. But it’s still news to many that the state is home to more than 100 craft spirit distilleries — more than any other state, according to the Washington Distillers Guild.
Saturday’s South Sound Spirits Gathering will help to spread the word about the budding industry. It’s also aiming to win over new customers with the strong stuff.
“There will be a variety of gins and vodkas, whiskey and a ton of fruit spirits,” said Holly Robinson, vice president of the Distillers Guild, which is hosting the gathering. “Since there are 18 distilleries, each tasting up to five different products, I can’t list them all.”
Three Thurston County distilleries — Blind Pig Spirits of Olympia, Salish Sea Organic Liqueurs of Lacey and Sandstone Distillery of Tenino — will be pouring at the gathering.
Blind Pig Spirits will pour single-malt whiskey, moonshine (unaged whiskey), vodka made from malted barley, apple pie moonshine and peach pie moonshine.
Salish Sea will offer four flavors: ginger and hibiscus, both named among the Best of the Northwest in Sip Northwest’s blind tasting last year, as well as lemongrass and nectarine.
Sandstone will showcase its signature vodka, filtered through fractured sandstone, along with its black gin, whiskey and bacon whiskey. The distillery recently won two silver medals from the American Craft Spirits Association.
The event, happening at the Olympic Flight Museum in Tumwater, will also feature tastes from local eateries and a chance to gaze at the vintage aircraft. For those who want more than a bite or two, Tumwater’s The TailGate BBQ will be on hand.
While wine- and beer-tasting events abound, there aren’t as many focused on spirits, which has been growing in Washington since laws changed to encourage farm-to-bottle distilleries using mostly Washington-grown ingredients.
“Ten or 11 years ago, there wasn’t a distillery in our state,” said Sandy Desner, general manager of Salish Sea Organic Liqueurs.
Perhaps because the growth has been so rapid, there isn’t much awareness of how many and varied the local offerings have become. The guild is aiming to change with events such as this one and with a map of Washington distilleries, which proceeds from this event will help to fund.
The city of Tumwater, meanwhile, is hoping to be a major point of interest on such future maps.
The city asked the guild to host this event to help draw attention to the new Thurston Craft Brewing and Distilling partnership zone. The city plans to establish a brewing and distilling center at the former Olympia Brewing facility.
For now, the industry is teaching people about its existence one customer — and one sip — at a time.
Blind Pig Spirits participated in the Lucky Eagle Beer, Wine and Spirits Festival last weekend, and only a handful of distilleries were represented, said co-owner Lesa Givens.
“The attendees were local,” she said, “and they were surprised and excited to see that we were from Olympia. They hadn’t heard of us.”
South Sound Spirits Gathering
What: Sip samples from 18 Washington distilleries, snack and see vintage planes at the Washington Distillers Guild’s event in South Sound.
When: 4-9 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Olympic Flight Museum, 7637-A Old Highway 99 SE, Tumwater.
Tickets: $40. The proceeds will support the nonprofit guild.
The distilleries: 3 Howls Distillery, Seattle; Batch 206 Distillery, Seattle; Black Sam Bellamy Distillery, Montesano; Blackfish Spirits Distillery, Auburn; Blind Pig Spirits, Olympia; Captive Spirits Big Gin, Seattle; Copperworks Distilling Co., Seattle; Heritage Distilling, Gig Harbor; Letterpress Distilling, Seattle; Salish Sea Organic Liqueurs; Lacey; Sandstone Distillery, Tenino; Seattle Distilling, Vashon; Skip Rock Distillers, Snohomish; Sound Spirits, Seattle; Temple Distilling, Lynnwood; The Hardware Distillery Co., Hoodsport; Whiskey Gap Distillery, Ritzville; Wishkah River Distillery, Aberdeen.