It took much longer than expected to get started, but the owners of Chuckanut Bay Distillery are getting encouraging signs they got it right as they roll out their first product.
The downtown Bellingham distillery recently started producing its potato vodka made from Yukon Gold potatoes. The vodka is currently in The Market at Lakeway store and is scheduled to go into the local Haggen and Community Food Co-op stores in the coming weeks.
The distillery is nearly two years in the making. Significant changes in state regulations regarding craft distilleries have led to growth in the industry. While the changes opened the door for more craft distilleries, building a distillery and making sure everything was done correctly stretched the timeline for co-owners Matt Howell, Kelly Andrews, Robert Andrews and Ethan Lynette. They had originally hoped to be open in 2012.
"I had no idea how long it would take," said Howell, who has been working an average 80 hours a week recently getting the distillery ready. The distillery is at 1115 Railroad Ave., near Boundary Bay Brewing, but the entrance is on the alley side.
The owners recently received acknowledgement for their hard work. The vodka won the Double Gold medal at the New York International Spirits Competition last month in New York City. The distillery also was named Washington State Distillery of the Year at the competition, which featured submissions of more than 400 spirits from around the world.
The awards are a sign that the company is on the right track. When they were coming up with local vodka, they wanted to go with a more neutral taste and be a traditional mixing spirit. In making vodka with Yukon Gold potatoes rather than with grain, Howell discovered it had an interesting floral earthy flavor and decided not to filter it out. It became a sipping vodka, and was sent to the New York competition to see what others thought of it.
With the product now hitting store shelves, Chuckanut Bay Distillery will work on other spirits, including gin and whiskey. Along with store sales, product will be served at local bars and restaurants. Currently the vodka is on the shelf at the Redlight bar on North State Street, but Howell said they plan to reach out to more Whatcom and Skagit county businesses as more product is made.
The distillery's tasting room is under construction and expected to be ready in the coming weeks and be open Fridays and weekends.
Howell said he would have done a few things differently to open earlier. For example, he said city officials were helpful with the permitting process, but he would have met with them all at the same time to go over what needed to be done first, making it easier for everyone.
"Looking back, I enjoyed the experience (of building a distillery), but at the time it was very stressful, especially after we fell behind our timeline," Howell said. "I've spent so much time here, and I'm glad to bring in others to see how this turned out."
For details on the distillery and updates about products, visit the company's Facebook page or go to chuckanutbaydistillery.com.
NEW WOMEN'S CLOTHING STORE OPENS IN BELLINGHAM
Kali Rose Boutique opened in Bellingham last month, offering a variety of women's clothing. The new store is at 1344 King St., Suite 102, near the northbound on-ramp to Interstate 5 and the Lakeway Fred Meyer.
It's open Tuesday through Saturday, but items also can be purchased at the website kaliroseboutique.com. The store features the latest styles from contemporary designers, according to a company press release.
Amy Jacobs owns the store. She also is a hair stylist with a degree in fashion design. For details about the store, visit the website or the company's Facebook page.
Now through Tuesday, Dec. 31, Haggen is increasing it School Bucks contribution percentage from 2 percent to 6 percent, increasing the amount of money that goes to local schools when customers buy specially marked items.
... The Woods Coffee is partnering with Bellingham's Spice Hut to overhaul its tea offerings. Woods is now offering pyramid-shaped sachets from Spice Hut that give a more evenly balanced, flavorful cup of tea, according to a company press release.
... Garden Spot Nursery is holding a holiday open house Nov. 23-24 with live music and food. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 23, the nursery will host Bellingham artist Stephanie Burgess, who will sign her Art Poles, which she launched earlier this year.
Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at email@example.com or call 715-2269.