Craft Distilleries


I recently had an opportunity to visit Woodinville Whiskey Co. located some 15 miles north of Seattle at the southernmost tip of the Snohomish Valley.  Woodinville Whiskey operates a 4700 sq.ft state-of-the-art facility in a region that has in the past several years led national growth in Wine Making, Craft Brewing, and now Craft Distillery markets.

Woodinville Whiskey Co. is the brainchild of co-owners Orlin Sorensen and Brett Carlile. “We decided to set up shop in Washington, and it wasn’t because we couldn’t find a map to Kentucky” quips Carlile.  An abundance of pure, local ingredients, pristine water and unique aging conditions make Washington an ideal place for distilling. “Much in the same way Irish and Scot’s whiskeys are flavored by the regions where they’re produced, we believe the unique spirit of our state shines through in every whiskey we produce.  We’re proud to offer something different and daring.”  Washington’s laws governing distilleries also help guarantee a product of unique and regional characteristics.  Distillers must use a majority of local ingredients in the production of their product and organic ingredients are specifically encouraged.

Master Distiller a la Maker’s Mark: WWC Master Distiller is Davis Pickerell, a 14-year veteran of whiskey-making as the Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark.  Pickerell is something of a legend in the whiskey community and helped Maker’s Mark become the industry-defining brand that it is today.  At Woodinville Whiskey Co. David’s recipes and experience have brought to life a craft distilling environment that is truly unique in the industry.

The Distillery: The Woodinville Whiskey Co. Distillation Plant is something to behold. Built in Germany, over a ton of copper and stainless steel come together in a marriage of fire, passion, and technology.  The result is a beauty that can only be achieved when old-world tradition is blended with modern-day innovation. Add a veteran master distiller to that equation and it’s easy to understand how this plant consistently delivers flavors and purity beyond the pedestrian.  Distillery Spec:

  • 265-gallon pot still with pear-shaped whiskey helmet
  • 16-plate bubble-cap “Superaromator” rectification column with increased copper surface area and turbulent motion of liquid
  • 2 dephlegmators for amplified rectification
  • Over 31 feet of columns
  • Over 1/2 ton of whole grain per production cycle

REVIEW: I’ll admit, as a Scotch drinker (Laphroaig-Islay) I was skeptical. What does a 2 year old whiskey have to offer. . . besides perhaps an innate ability to boil the rust off one’s trailer hitch?  Carlile explained, “It’s all in the barrel.  Our barrels are used for just one aging cycle of our bourbon or rye whiskey.  The oak is aged 18-24 months (almost as long as their whiskey) and slow-toasted prior to charring. This process promotes a complex and highly desirable flavor profile. Our smaller barrels (8 gal.) also provide a greater surface area to volume ratio (more wood in contact with liquid) which results in increased extraction.” So apparently more charred and toasty wood sloshing up against a smaller amount of liquid acts as an accelerator, netting several years of aging in only 2 years time? Interesting concept, probably great in an elevator speech, but I was about to find out if reality would live up to the hype.

Mashbill No. 9 Bourbon Whiskey, 46% ABV: Visual: The color of this corn-base whiskey is pleasing, a warm golden-red. A little darker than one would expect but with good clarity and a surprising amount of “leg” in the glass.  Aroma: The aroma is pleasing and spicy, confined almost entirely within the chimney of the glass. It is slightly smokey and non phenolic.  Taste: The taste is smooth and complex and very, very clean. There are notes of spice but no heat and not the slightest hint of char. The viscosity is excellent.  Mouth: Usually a spirit will interact with the tongue in several different places, each area of the tongue designed to be receptive to a different taste.  This spirit hit my tongue, my entire tongue, squarely and uniformly, very interesting and not altogether unpleasant. I’ve actually never felt anything like it.  Finish: The finish is enjoyable; chocolatey-brown sugar, the brown sugar notes delivering the hint of char that I’d been expecting in the initial taste. Overall Impression: This is not a bad effort. Although it may undoubtedly appreciate with age, it is enjoyable, sessionable, and pleasing. It’s a little light on character, but hey, it’s only 2 years old.  If you’re a fan of Knob Creek this may be too light for your taste.

100% Rye Whiskey, 46% ABV: Visual: Like the Mashbill No.9 the color of this 100% rye whiskey is a pleasing, golden-red. Darker than one would expect but with good clarity and a nice “leg”.  Aroma: The aroma is peppery with some char. It is slightly phenolic with aromatic fumes detectable more than an inch above the chimney of the glass. Nice!  Taste: The taste profile is all rye and very pleasing. It has spicy overtones, is peppery, oakey and above all hot. Not the kind of “hot” that makes your eyes water and has you gasping for breath, but the kind of hot that is a highly sensational and tasty mouthful.  Mouth: This spirit is very different from the No.9.  The viscosity is pleasing, not too thin or too thick. It lies uniformly and shallowly across the tongue with the front half of your mouth experiencing all of the action. Despite the heat of this spirit there is no bitterness or smoke apparent. Just a many-layered and engaging rye taste-spectrum.  Finish: The finish is all rye with a pleasant, round heat remaining for several moments after the swallow. Try as I might to find the caramelized profile that I’d expected within the aftertaste there was very little there besides the flavors of the rye, heat and oak.  Overall Impression: A superior spirit. Between the No.9 and the 100% Rye, the Rye wins hands down. It was thoroughly unique and very enjoyable with enough robust character to be a treat to the taste buds of any avid Rye Whiskey fan. 




About Ken Barnes

Ken Barnes is the CEO of Seattle Based design firm BSR Brand + Environment and leads all BSR’s branding, design, architecture and build practices. For nearly thirty years his expertise in brand creation, retail design and branded architecture has guided work for some of today’s biggest brands. He is also the creator of the brand packaging and logo for Los Angeles Ale Works. He loves craft beer, but his real passion is hand made scotch and small batch spirits. He lives in the Seattle area with his wife and 3 dogs.

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1 Comment

  1. Kip:

    Great article! Very concise and detailed. You should consider getting a BJCP certification. I need to get some of their Rye and one of their Rye Barrels.

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