It’s full steam ahead for Distillarium, proving that patience is a spirit, as well as a virtue.
Waiting patiently is difficult, whether you’re a kid wanting to open birthday presents or an adult lining up for a cocktail at your corner bar. As the Tom Petty song says: The waiting is the hardest part. But sometimes, what arrives at the end is worth it. That’s what Yakima’s Distillarium believes. And they think you will too, once you try their whiskies and brandies.
The name “Distillarium” conjures up a Victorian sideshow attraction, a sentiment mirrored in the distillery’s steampunk-style labels and distinctive branding. It might make you think their roots stretch back 150 years to a lesser-known London backstreet. They actually start in Texas, where co-owners Ken and Isabel Miller (Ken operates as CEO) are from.
When deciding distilling was their future, however, the couple made the move north. Having family here, Ken had spent lots of time in the state growing up, admiring the beauty and bounty of the Pacific Northwest. They felt the Yakima area was the consummate spot to crank up the distillery, with a vision, as Ken says, of bringing “aged spirits to Washington in a way that utilized the rich grains, fruit, and corn central Washington is known for.”
The gears began turning back in 2016. Ken and Isabel brought aboard Austin Hallford to be master distiller, who had a deep background in home-distilling and still construction. The first spirits started aging in 2017. Then they embarked on waiting — fortunately, patience is one of the principles Distillarium is built upon.
Distillarium spirits are distilled from Washington corn, grains and fruit, most of which have been aging for a period of three-to-four years depending on the spirit.” (There is a 5-year old brandy available and longer-aged spirits are on the way.) You might imagine them gazing wistfully at barrels during the ensuing years. The truth is the opposite. As they were busily crafting a few non-aged delights (vodkas, moonshine, and grape-based eau de vie), they were also building a tasting room.
Creating a welcoming tasting room alongside a distillery is never easy — and Distillarium did it in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Construction delays, supply chain and equipment wrangling all became unexpected wrinkles. The tasting room took two long years to finish.
Unlike many distilleries, they’ve a full kitchen, too, which almost certainly kept the tasting room from being completed earlier. But it provides visitors a chance to fully “mingle and share community with food and tastings,” as Ken says.
Today, it’s the ideal space to start your voyage through their bourbon, rye, triticale whiskies, brandies and other spirits. Try them solo, in flights, or in signature cocktails like the Cranberry Brandy Old Fashioned, while pairing with house-made delectables such as pear-and-gorgonzola tartlets or chicken-and-waffle sliders.
The tasting room is also a dandy spot to hear more about the Distillarium story from those closest to it. It’s a story of waiting, sure. But one of resilience and taste. While whiling away the years as a whiskey or brandy develops isn’t always easy, the end result can be something dreams are made of.
Haven’t yet delved into Distillarium products? Here are a few faves to start your imagination rolling — until you get your own bottle.
3-Year American Brandy
$52 | 750ml
It’s wonderful to see a Washington brandy (a natural in our grape-growing state), especially when as tasty as this is. That’s not just my opinion: It earned the Judge’s Pick from Sip’s 2022 Best of the Northwest Competition. Distilled from Riesling, Chardonnay and Muscat grapes and aged in French and Hungarian oak barrels, it’s a smooth sipper, delivering fall flowers on the nose, fruit flavors (apple, dried orange) and a smidge of lingering sweetness. Delicious after a big dinner or sample it in a Brandy Alexander with cream and crème de cacao.
Straight Triticale Whiskey
$54 | 750ml
The triticale is a hybrid cereal grain that is a cross between wheat and rye. A rarity until recently in the whiskey world, here it unveils — after aging three years in charred American oak barrels — an approachable swill-ability. Pastries and orange blossoms on the nose lean into light caramel swirling sweetly with oak and hints of rye spiciness. Dandy solo or over ice, it’s a hit, too, subbed into a Manhattan with Punt e Mes vermouth and Scrappy’s Orange Bitters.
3-Year Straight Bourbon Whiskey
$52 | 750ml
Distilled from corn and rye, aged in American oak, and with only a few barrels hand-selected by the master distiller for blending and bottling, this Sip 2022 Best of the Northwest Double Gold winner is a rich tipple. Notes of Washington grains and butterscotch waft forward, followed by more warm butterscotch, toasted cracker, oak and a pinch of nuttiness in taste. Savor neat or with a splash of water during cold months, or try in a sprightly spring or summer Mint Julep.
Straight Rye Whiskey
$54 | 750ml
A persuasive all-Washington grain whiskey aged in charred American oak at least three years, you’ll find roasted fruit (red apples, peach) and molasses on the nose flowing into black pepper, baking spices and more molasses in flavor. The combo garnered it a Sip 2022 Best of the Northwest Double Gold medal. Dandy neat or with a water splash, try it also in a “Rye Not?” — two ounces rye, half ounce apricot liqueur and sweet vermouth, two dashes peach bitters, stirred, strained and served over a fat ice cube.