It’s universally agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown was awful. No one wanted businesses’ doors to close, no one wanted to stay at home for weeks and months on end. Yet, despite the difficult time, there were still some silver linings that are important to acknowledge. Human beings worked tirelessly during the shutdown to create new roads, new futures and new possibilities. One of those industrious companies was Copperworks Distilling Co.

With plans to expand its current distilling location in Seattle — as well as opening new restaurants, tasting rooms and distilling locations — Copperworks is setting itself up to be successful years, decades even, down the road. We caught up with Copperworks Co-founder, President and Distiller Jason Parker to ask him about the new plans, along with what he loves about making and drinking spirits like whiskey, practically and philosophically. 

Copperworks Distilling makes whiskey, gin, vodka and other delightful concoctions here and there. Not to get too philosophical but, before we get into any of the new plans, what have you learned about yourself and life by owning and operating a distillery?

When I left brewing in 2000 to pursue a new career, the thing I missed most was the community of creative entrepreneurs. We shared knowledge freely; gave each other jobs whenever possible’ supported each other during difficult times; and worked together to make beer and brewing an artistic expression, not just a business. Most importantly, we created a positive brewing culture, not just a bunch of fun beers. 

After a 13-year break to pursue a career in information management, I couldn’t wait to get back into that type of creativity and community. The one thing I never expected — because I had never been an owner of the breweries I worked for — is how creative the business side of entrepreneurship can be.  

I enjoy contributing to a skilled, happy and creative distilling workforce, and contributing to the health and well-being of the local grain economy as much as I enjoy producing award-winning whiskey, gin, and vodka. As an individual contributor to another’s business, I had no idea how much creativity — and responsibility — came with owning a business. 

The company has a number of big plans in the works. You plan to expand the current distilling location on the Seattle waterfront and open a new eatery and event space next door. You also plan to open a new bar, restaurant and production facility in Kenmore, Wash. What was the thought process that led you to this number of massive changes and upgrades?

The pandemic created vacancies in places we’d been considering for a long time. I had frequently looked for ways to expand our footprint in downtown Seattle to fulfill two needs: One, a place of our own to showcase our products in cocktails and food pairings and, two, a better venue to host events, teach classes and tell our story than our small tasting room. When the furniture store next door closed, we began scheming and discussing with the property owners how to make that happen. After several years of looking around the city, the perfect location suddenly appeared directly next door! 

We’ve always planned to increase our production beyond what could be made partnering with local breweries. After searching Tacoma, Ballard, SODO and other nearby areas, the location in Kenmore became available when a brewery closed due to the pandemic, and the property owners invited us to consider building there. Again, the location is perfect for our plans — big enough to grow, close to a busy commuter trail, and more affordable than other locations we’d considered. 

Rendering of new production facility in Kenmore, WA

How do you think these changes will impact your brand, company and the way people outside of the organization understand it?

Whiskey experiments take 3-5 years to yield results suitable for decision-making. After eight years of producing whiskey, we’re convinced we’re on the right track and now need to scale production. Demand far outpaces our supply, and what we’re producing today needs to be of sufficient volume to fill markets half a decade later. American Single Malt Whiskey is positioned to receive formal approval from the TTB as a new type of whiskey in the U.S. by the end of the year. If we act quickly, Copperworks Distilling will remain a leading producer in the American Single Malt Whiskey market, and should be able to enjoy national and international reception like we have enjoyed the first eight years in Washington state, our only real market. 

When is the best time and under what conditions is most optimal to have a nice glass of whiskey

Single Malt Whiskey used to conjure up images of old men smoking cigars and drinking drams of whiskey neat. While that’s still one way to enjoy whiskey, equally as enjoyable is in a cocktail — such as a Manhattan, Old Fashioned or Sazerac — at the end of the workday; as a highball after a weekend mountain biking trip; from a flask while backpacking or skiing; or just neat, as a finish to an evening meal with friends.  

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.