A guide to Washington’s locally made gins

Gin, long the tipple of elegant garden parties and breezy summertime cocktails, is finding a foothold in the state’s burgeoning distilling industry.

Made by infusing a neutral spirit with juniper and other aromatics – coriander, citrus peel, cassia bark (a relative of cinnamon) and angelica root are regulars – each gin has a distinct botanical recipe that’s held close to the vest. While juniper is the dominant flavor of London dry-style gins, some new American-style gins dampen the juniper to highlight other, often more unusual botanicals.

Washington’s craft distilleries are required by law to source 51% of their raw materials in-state, which some distilleries have deemed too limiting and choose to operate under the more expensive, traditional license. Others have embraced the restriction, finding plenty to work with from the state’s farmed and foraged bounty.

A guide to Washington’s locally made vodka

Vodka is a peculiar spirit to taste test. Its distinctive features are smoothed away by distillation and filtration, resulting in a colorless, neutral spirit that is difficult to describe but easy to find a preference for, much like a favorite pen.

While large U.S. vodka producers often buy a pre-made neutral grain spirit that needs only a few steps before it’s bottled, most of these Washington vodkas began at distilleries as milled grain or fruit. The end result: handmade vodkas that retain the aromas and palatable qualities of their raw ingredients.

A guide to Washington’s locally made whiskeys

One caveat, before we dip into the brown liquors: Washington whiskeys are still young. A law that allows craft distilleries to sell liquor to the public passed only in 2008, triggering a flood of small operations that started with gin and vodka, which don’t require aging and can move from still to shelf quickly.

Next up were Washington whiskeys, often aged for shorter durations and sometimes in smaller barrels than well-known brands from the Bluegrass Belt of Kentucky and Tennessee. The smaller casks allow more of the spirit to come into contact with the wood, speeding up the transfer of flavors and color from the oak to the spirit while preserving the flavor of the grains.

Nevertheless, these whiskeys can reveal their youth with more untethered rawness than their Southern seniors; sometimes, there’s just no substitute for time. But remember, skepticism greeted the nascent Washington wine industry some decades ago – and look where we are now.

Coming soon: Liqueurs & other spirits

We welcome suggestions for locally made spirits and liqueurs you’d like to recommend. Submit suggestions below or email liquorlibrary@seattletimes.com.

Coming soon: Mixers & garnishes

We welcome suggestions for locally made bitters, mixers and garnishes you’d like to recommend. Submit suggestions below or email liquorlibrary@seattletimes.com.

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We welcome suggestions for locally made spirits and liquers you’d like to recommend: submit suggestions here or email liquorlibrary@seattletimes.com.

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