The small field of Pierce County distillers grew by two this month. That’s a significant advancement considering the last distillery opening in Pierce County was in 2013. Old Soldier Distillery opened June 12 near the Tacoma Dome Business District. Chambers Bay Distillery opened its doors in University Place on June 13. Here’s a look at each.
OLD SOLDIER DISTILLERY
The old soldier behind this Tacoma distillery specializing in distilling corn whiskey is Andy Fairchok, who’s retired from the Army, and the head distiller at Old Soldier Distillery. Business partner Rodney Kaeding is retired from the Air Force. (He still works his day job with the Veterans Administration.)
The distillery received its licensing in November, and distilling started shortly after, but the doors didn’t officially open to the public until this month.
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Because they’re only recently licensed, they’re in a period of increasing their supply, but the tasting room is open every Friday and Saturday for tours and whiskey sales.
They’re offering three products: A young bourbon aged for about six months in small casks, a white corn whiskey that’s unaged and a traditional whiskey.
Their specialty is the corn whiskey made in the style of Fairchok’s great-great grandfather, a quartermaster during the Civil War. “Part of his job was making sure the soldiers got their rations, and some of that contained whiskey,” said Fairchok. The family whiskey lore was handed down from a great uncle.
All products are distilled on-site, and the corn used in the distilling process comes from Washington farms.
The supply chain at the distillery has an interesting twist. A farmer in Graham provides artesian well water for the whiskey, and the distillery returns by giving the farm spent wash from the distilling process that the farmer sprays on his hay crop for nutrients.
“Everything we do in liquid and solids goes back into the system to help crops grow and feed critters. We don’t put anything into the sewer system,” explained Fairchok.
CHAMBERS BAY DISTILLERY
Somewhere out in a marina in Tacoma, at a location that can’t be disclosed, a boathouse full of bourbon is rocking back and forth. And back and forth. And back and forth. It’s a process business partners Alan Davis and Jeff Robinette hope will create a superb aged bourbon.
“So many people have been experimenting on putting barrels on ships and putting them around the world. The movement of the boats creates great bourbon,” explained Davis of the nontraditional approach to aging their handmade distilled spirit.
But that long aging process means their bourbon won’t be ready until late 2015. November is the projected release date for Greenhorn Bourbon from Chambers Bay Distillery.
So for now, the duo have purchased spirits distilled elsewhere — a vodka from Canada and a whiskey from Florida — and are flavoring and finishing the products in their distillery while they wait for their handmade bourbon to mature.
Their Ghost Dog Whiskey, a high-end corn-based whiskey they’ve flavored with ghost peppers, is already on bar menus at several restaurants, including Masa, Asado, Engine House No. 9, The Valley, Half Pint Pizza, Smoke + Cedar, Steel Creek and the list goes on. It’s also for sale at Harbor Greens market.
Their vodka will be released this summer.
Davis and Robinette are lifelong Pierce County residents and friends. They met while playing saxophone in the school band at Hudtloff Junior High in Lakewood. They graduated from Lakes High School, attended the University of Washington and the same fraternity. Post college, Davis built a career as a financial analyst, living in Portland and Seattle before returning here, and Robinette works as an embryologist. They’ll both keep their day jobs.
Several cocktails are on the distillery tasting room menu right now — and expect some of the same cocktails to show up at the bars now serving Ghost Dog Whiskey.