by Carrie Uffindell | Photo © Carrie Uffindell
With their agricultural bounty, maritime air and an atmosphere that engenders the creative spirit, the islands in Washington’s Salish Sea are ideal for creating premium, handcrafted spirits. On Bainbridge, Whidbey, San Juan, Fidalgo and Samish Islands, a batch of distillers have opened their doors, bringing their passion and knowledge to the stills. They each invite those wishing to taste and even tour to their tasting rooms; be sure to check their websites for open days and hours.
Bainbridge Organic Distillers
At Washington’s first organic distillery, opened in 2009, father-and-son team Keith and Patrick Barnes offer three unique spirits: a well-matured whiskey (thanks to the island’s salt-laden air), a full-flavored vodka and a Douglas Firinfused gin.
“The ingredients we use were developed decades ago,” explains Keith. “It’s an older way of doing things but much more sustainable and environmentally sound in the long
The tasting room and distillery are located on the east side of the island, less than three miles north of Winslow. After a quick tour of the distillery, be sure to sit down and enjoy a taste of these fine spirits. Bainbridgedistillers.com
Whidbey Island Distillery
Founded in 2009 by Beverly and Steve Heising, Whidbey Island Distillery produces a rich, flavorful loganberry liqueur, inspired by Whidbey’s history as one of the country’s largest loganberry producers. “We also wanted to start a family-based business,” Beverly says, “to show our kids how to make a product from the ground up.”
Master distiller Steve is also working on new products, including a blackberry liqueur and a whiskey. “I began distilling with my dad when I was 15-years-old,” Steve says. “I grew up abroad in Saudi Arabia in the mid-1950s, when the American community living there could only get alcohol by distilling their own.”
The distillery and tasting room are located on a small farm at the south end of Whidbey Island, just outside of Langley and off SR 525. whidbeydistillery.com
San Juan Island Distillery
Also partners in Westcott Bay Cider, Rich Anderson and Suzy and Hawk Pingree have been creating award-winning spirits since 2011. Specialties include fruit and botanical-filled gins, brandies and liqueurs.
They have even bottled their favorite cocktail, Red Sky at Night, a mixture of their Spy Hop Gin, Lavender and Wild Rose Liqueur and Westcott Bay Cider Syrup. Simply shake with ice and serve up or on the rocks with a rose petal or lemon zest garnish.
“We’re indulging our curiosity and really having a lot of fun,” says Suzy. “As former educators we get to teach people about distilling and cider making. We’re all about excellent and local. We want to stay small.”
Be sure to look for more libations to sample down the pipeline. Suzy and Hawk have a passion for apple brandy and are currently aging batches, which should be ready in the next year or so.
They are located on the northern end of San Juan Island, not far from Roche Harbor Resort. sanjuanislanddistillery.com
On Fidalgo Island, Deception Distilling, founded in 2012, creates small batches of artisan vodkas and whiskeys using local products. The distillery and tasting room are located off Highway 20 near Deception Pass between Whidbey Island and Anacortes. Deceptiondistilling.com
Samish Island, at the edge of the Skagit Valley, is connected to the mainland by a system of dykes. Opened in 2010 by Jim Caudill and Bob Stillnovich, Golden Distillery is Samish Island’s first and only micro-distillery. This small-batch operation—housed in a former chicken coop with a stunning marine view—specializes in small batches of artisan spirits, including two award-winning single malt whiskeys and a delicious apple brandy. Just a taste of their single malt peated whiskey is worth the drive to this scenic rural island. goldendistillery.com