More great news for our community
Gig Harbor has not had a distillery since Prohibition. But that's about to change with the opening of Heritage Distilling Company, Inc. Justin Stiefel, a most enthusiastic and knowledgeable craft distiller sent me the following information today. I am sharing it with you just as he shared it, full of excitement and enthusiasm for this new Gig Harbor business. Watch for more news on Heritage Distilling in the weeks and months ahead!
Heritage Distilling Company is majority owned by Gig Harbor residents under the leadership of Jennifer Stiefel (Founder and President) and Justin Stiefel (Founder, CEO and Head Distiller). HDC is scheduled to be fully licensed and operational by August 2012. The Federal TTB permit has been granted and we are in the middle of review with the Washington Liquor Control Board for our state license. It will be licensed as a “Craft Distillery” under Washington State law.
We are moving into the building next to the Inn at Gig Harbor that currently houses 7 Seas Brewing Company.
We will initially be making Whiskey (both unaged and aged), Gin and Vodka, then branching out into other spirits as the operation grows and based on customer demand.
As a Craft Distillery we are allowed to have a tasting room where we can offer customers samples of the products we make. We can also sell customers up to 2 liters per day of products we make that they can take off premises. Under Washington law, as a Craft Distillery 51% or more of the raw ingredients we use must be grown in the State of Washington. We are sourcing our grain from family farms in Odessa, WA and Latah, WA that we have known for 20 years. The farms are operated by fraternity brothers of Justin Stiefel (Sigma Chi, Gamma Eta, University of Idaho 1997) and sorority sisters of Jennifer Stiefel (Alpha Phi, Beta Zeta, University of Idaho 1997).
We think it is important to source local whenever possible, and being able to tie in with our longtime family farmer friends to supply quality products is an important ingredient for the concept of supporting the local community. When we are done making our mash we will be providing the spent grain to local farmers to feed their cattle and pigs. We expect the resulting bacon and steaks to be especially juicy!
Our artwork and logos have been developed locally. For our first unaged whiskey product we are using George Washington’s original unaged rye whiskey recipe. At the time of his death in 1799 George Washington had one of the largest distillery operations in the newly independent country, all operated from his plantation at Mount Vernon, Virginia. When we lived in Virginia we spent time touring that operation, getting a first-hand look at how George Washington’s product was made. Back then his style of whiskey was designed to be consumed immediately, without aging. When we moved back here to Washington State we thought it would only be appropriate to launch our product line using his original recipe combined with Washington State ingredients grown or sourced from the state that bears his name. I like to say George Washington was, “First in War, First in Peace, and First in Spirits.”
In further support of “staying local” we hired local artist Dusty Larson to create a specific label featuring George Washington. Dusty is a college student who works at the Gig Harbor YMCA.
We are also using the talents of local Gig Harbor marketing firm Group Gilman, founded by two graduates of Gig Harbor high schools.
“How did we get into this,” you might ask? In college Justin studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Idaho. He has always had a fascination with the processes involved in making beer and wine, but especially the highly technical distillation processes involved in making distilled spirits. He later graduated from the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. Making distilled spirits is not only a technically demanding and exacting science and art, it is also highly regulated at the federal and state level. Combining this technical training, legal education and his passion for premium spirits, he decided to take advantage of laws enacted in Washington State in 2008 and later amended to open a distillery. Jennifer studied Education at the University of Idaho and later earned her Master’s in Education from Central Michigan University where she focused on human intelligence. She is an expert at creating interactive learning environments which we plan to use for customers who visit our distillery.
We have ordered a custom made 2000 liter still system from Italy. It is schedule to arrive here in late July. It will have a 2000 liter pot still with a whiskey dome, a separate 12 plate rectification column for making higher proof spirits ant a 14 foot condensation column. We are traveling to Italy in late May to inspect the equipment being made.
The theme at Heritage Distilling Company is, “Every Spirit Has a Story.” Jennifer’s family originally hails from the Lake Quinault region, where they were some of the first white settlers in the region. They homesteaded the upper Queets area and the family burial plot is now in the heart of the Olympic National Park. The original Olson clan had 18 kids. While they lived there they domesticated the wild Elk. We have original family glass negatives showing the family (mostly ladies) riding these elk. This gave rise to our traditional line of whiskey, Gin and Vodka we will make under the brand name “Elk Rider”. Justin’s family originally hails from northern Italy where our large still is being built. And every customer who comes into HDC has an interesting background or story to tell. That is why we say, “Every Spirit Has a Story”, because whether it is the experience our customers get from being in our facility, or the story of where our raw material come from, or the unique hands on approach that goes into making each batch of product, every spirit will have a story. We have designed HDC to be a “Destination Distillery”, and we think the unique concepts we have in mind will draw people from all over to come see what we are doing, which we think will help drive more visitors to Gig Harbor.
Finally, we have developed a very unique and customized program for customers to be able to order small custom batches of Whiskey specifically designed and aged for them – we call it the “Cask Club”. They will tell us when they like the flavor and when they want it bottled. It will be totally customized for their flavor profile rather than predetermined by some master distiller they have never met before. We will be the first distillery to offer the type of unique service and customer experience we have in mind and we have already received pre-order requests for these private casks. We also have plans for larger customized casks for corporate customers who want unique corporate gifts to give their clients and customers.
We have a float in this year’s Maritime Gig parade and we will have a table at the Wine and Food Festival.
For more information people can go to our website www.HeritageDistilling.com and sign up to join our mailing list. There we are taking requests for pre-orders. We also encourage people to LIKE us on Facebook.
Heritage Distilling Company, Inc.