"Copper Envy" as Craft Distillers Meet in Seattle

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Distillers Conference.jpg

The American Distilling Institute, made up of craft distillers from around the country, emerged from a tradition of making moonshine in the back woods of Appalachia. And among the thousand or so folks attending the ADI conference in Seattle this week, you do see a few Duck Dynasty types in beards, flannel shirts and overalls. But not many. Most of the attendees are focused indy entrepreneurs.

The craft distilling industry has seen explosive growth over the past couple of decades, increasing from fewer than a dozen producers in 1994 to well over 400 today. Even so, their output barely registers compared to the big boys: just one half of one percent of all spirits sold. Washington, Oregon, California, Texas and New York produce the most. Washington's growth is a direct consequence of new craft distillery licenses authorized by the legislature in 2008. Seattle alone now has 18 distilleries within city limits.

And so the vendors showed up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, to display their dazzling copper stills and gleaming glass, their promises to manage the federal paperwork. World-renowned consultants like Hubert Germain-Robin are treated like rock stars, but two local boys are one of the reasons the conference is in Seattle this year.

Emerson Lamb and Matt Hoffman, the co-founders of Westland Distillery in SoDo, are making the case for Seattle as an ideal location (water, climate, barley) for single-malt whiskey. Hoffman presented a seminar on the fundamentals of malt whiskey. And he was not alone on the list of headliners. Fremont's Mischief Distillery hosted the vodka workshop, Captive Spirits presented gin, 3-Howls offered perspectives on rum, and BroVo Spirits ran a two-day workshop on blending botanicals for infusion spirits and amari. Oh, and Orlin Sorenson of Woodinville Whiskey was the keynote speaker.

And at the closing banquet, a stunning surprise: Chef John Howie's Stark Vatton Vodka, which won't even be released until August, took Best of Category. Howie's label, Wildrose Spirits, is in partnership with his beverage director, Erik Liedholm, who's on his way to being certified as a Master Distiller in addition to his Master Sommelier diploma. The vodka (and a gin) will be on the menu at the new, long-awaited Beardslee Ale House in Bothell this summer.

Below: Hoffman (left) and Lamb host the afterparty.at Westland. The still, custom-made by Vendome, is said to be their largest ever.

Westland ADI.jpg

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on April 2, 2014 9:00 AM.

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