Woodinville. Washington's best kept secret.
I'm not saying that I'm special but I feel quite ahead of the curve with Woodinville. Their name has been plastered across press releases and whiskey headlines this year. This new found fame takes me back to when I lived in Oakland and wanted to start barrel aging and finishing a few of my own whiskeys. When you Google “age your own whiskey” Woodinville is one of the top hits. To be honest, I thought they were a retail store when I purchased it and had no idea that they were producing whiskey. This was about 3 years ago that I started aging my own whiskey in their small American Oak 2 liter casks. When I embarked on my Her Whisky Love journey to Scotland this cask got lost in the shuffle of my uprooted life. That small cask has never been emptied and my aging white dog has now been sitting at my parents house in this small Woodinville cask for 3 years. The over-oaked aromas have to be exquisite especially since the recommended aging time is 3-6 months. I will have to try it next time I go home to Rochester, New York and if anyone wants a sip of Holly’s first whiskey, I’ll send samples!
We popped up to the town of Woodinville on our first day in Seattle after visiting Westland. Woodinville was started in 2010 by co-founders Orlin Sorensen and Brett Carlile. They moved to the current facility in 2014 after producing small batch spirits in a business park. Dave Pickerell was an integral part of the process and distillery set-up. Mr. Pickerell can be linked to many distilleries such as Hillrock, WhistlePig and Corsair to name a few. The layout and feel of the distillery reminded me a bit of a hybrid Angels Envy/WhistlePig. Slightly re-purposed, 2-story barn feel. A beautiful space and also right in the heart of the Woodinville Wine Trail. Matt, one of the Woodinville Distillers and also a Glaswegian, gave us the lovely tour.
Matt started first by helping us to understand that this Woodinville business was much more than a distillery. They have a partnership with the Omlin Family Farm about 3-4 hours north of Woodinville in Quincy, Washington. This is also where they store their 9,000 aging casks in 3 warehouses. This exclusive partnership for grains and warehousing capabilities was most likely just another intriguing quality for the Moet Hennessey purchase of Woodinville this past summer of 2017. Unfortunately for us, Woodinville is currently only available in Washington State and that’s why this purchase was big news for many of us whiskey feins. Who is this brand and why is LVMH interested in them? Hopefully with the purchase we can expect distribution to expand.
Woodinville is getting their grain from Omlin Farm and then bringing it directly to the distillery. Milling is done on site and they will mill through about 500 pounds of grain per day. Once they have the grist they are running a step mash that lasts about 10 hours in their 2,900 gallon stainless steel mashtun. After mashing they move the sugary wort and grains over to one of the four 3,100 gallon fermenters. Their fermentation period lasts about 4 days and gets them to roughly a 10% ABV level. Matt would not speak to the yeast strands – highly proprietary! They have a pot still and two column stills. The stills were manufactured by Koda, a German Still company. The pot still is the first point of distillation for the whiskey and sits at a capacity of 1,320 gallons. The 2nd distillation for further rectification and for achieving that higher proof is run through the 1st column still. There is a 2nd column, but that is only used for additional stripping of their vodka. Barrels are filled on site and they can fill about 7, 53 gallon barrels of whiskey per day. They fill their casks at around 110 proof.
The casks are very important to Woodinville as they are to all whiskey producers. They get their casks from Independent Stave Company in Missouri where they request very strict specifications for their oak. It must season or sit out in the elements for about 18 months and then they require the barrel to be toasted, then charred along with charring of the heads. They prefer a #4 char. They are also experimenting with their local neighbors by using wine casks as well. Matt had said with this process, they find that their whiskey is best after about 5 years. Once the casks are deemed ready for bottling, they are brought back from Quincy, Washington and bottled on-site at Woodinville Distillery.
Here are a few of the expressions I was able to try....
Woodinville Straight Bourbon 90 proof
5 years old @ 72% corn / 22% rye / 6% malted barley
Rich Luxardo cherries and red fruits. Chocolate and caramel followed by a burnt toast char finish.
Woodinville Straight Rye 90 proof
4 years old @ 100% Rye
This has a true Hi-C fruit punch quality. Sweet plums, cherries, a bit of spice but still this delicious fruit punch quality.
We were also fortunate enough to have visited during their Limited Release Fall Edition bottling launch. This included an Applewood Bourbon along with a cask strength bourbon and rye.
Woodinville Cask Strength Bourbon @ 122.49 proof
Holly’s Review: Light toffee, honey and nougat. The palate has a huge bite at first go but full of ripe fruit, nuts and char. A beautiful, full flavored bourbon. It holds the proof well!
Woodinville Cask Strength Rye @ 118.90 proof
Holly’s Review: This had almost a rock candy, pop rock feel with some rye spice. The palate was bright citrus with lemon, crunchy toffee and nuts. The proof held so many different and intense flavors compared to the regular 90 proof rye. We went from Hi-C fruit punch to pop rocks!
If you are interested in going down my original path with the Age Your Own Whiskey Kit the link is right there. In conclusion, all of the Woodinville products were extremely rich and full bodied with ripe red fruits and caramels. I will say that there is a consistent theme of Hi-C and Kool-Aid for me. Get out to Seattle so you can try these whiskeys for yourself!