New law gives craft distillers more options

A state law that went into effect last month will ease the way for Whidbey Island’s distilleries, their owners said.

Whidbey Island Distillery owners Bev and Steve Heising toast their success with drinks they couldn’t have offered customers before Senate Bill 5353. Steve drinks the distillery’s rye whiskey

By DAN RICHMAN

drichman@whidbeynewsgroup.com

A state law that went into effect last month will ease the way for Whidbey Island’s distilleries, their owners said.

Senate Bill 5353, a nine-page statute, “changes the way we do things — all for the good,” said Bev Heising, co-owner of Whidbey Island Distillery in Langley. “The best thing is that we’re finally allowed to sell aside from in our production location — over the Internet, by phone, at farmers’ markets.”

SB 5353 allows serving spirits with nonalcoholic mixers, water and/or ice, which can make them far more palatable.

Until now, distilleries have been allowed to serve spirits only unadulterated and at room temperature.

The new law lets distilleries sell their products at farmers’ markets, though they can’t offer samples there.

It allows them to hold up to 12 tastings a year, either on their own premises or elsewhere, and to sell spirits there. And it permits the sale of gift cards and gift certificates redeemable for liquor.

Perhaps most importantly, SB 5353 allows selling liquor over the phone, by Internet or by mail, using credit cards if desired. But other state law prohibits Washington distillers from selling out of state, Heising said.

“We’re growing really fast as long as things keep getting easier for us,” said Heising, who runs the craft distillery with her husband, Steven, and their sons.

The craft distillery — defined as one that under law must use at least 50 percent Washington-grown products — offers whiskey as well as blackberry, loganberry and raspberry liqueurs.

Being able to sell at farmers’ markets “gives us another avenue to get our product out there,” Heising said. “It used to have to be a non-profit event to have a tasting.”

The new law will “bring those of us who want to be craft distillers into being legal instead of hiding in the shadows,” said Kathy Parks, who with business partner Harry Sloan, is in the process of opening Cultus Bay Distillery in Sandy Hook.

The law “is a step forward,” said Parks, who has submitted much of the requisite paperwork to state and federal authorities and hopes to be operational by December.

Cultus Bay Distillery will offer an unflavored 80-proof vodka playfully called Te Absolvo, as well as ginseng, orange and sweet-lemon bitters.

Parks has also applied to distill Viognier eau de vie, a liquor stronger than wine but less potent than brandy.

A third state-licensed craft distillery, Kayak Spirits, of Freeland, did not return calls seeking comment.

 

More in Business

Heaping slices of awesome

Whidbey Pies Cafe named as best pie in Washington

Nonprofit opens doors at new, larger location

Garage of Blessings now has more space than it ever has before,… Continue reading

Vester
Oak Harbor High School grad starts career at bank

Peoples Bank announced the appointment of JAHLEEL VESTER as real estate loan… Continue reading

County clarifies winery, brewery, distillery code

After decades without clear definitions in its code, Island County has adopted… Continue reading

Town makes changes to 2 percent funds process

The Town of Coupeville voted Tuesday to make a few minor changes… Continue reading

SaviBank breaks ground for branch on Midway

SaviBank has broken ground for a new branch on Midway Boulevard in… Continue reading

Island Transit honors maintenance team

Island Transit is recognizing its maintenance team with a Wall of Fame… Continue reading

Whidbey solar business warns against policy change

Whidbey Islanders like to go green. Whidbey has more solar energy installations… Continue reading

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Island County gets new director

Jennifer Paddock had dedicated her career to helping children, which made her… Continue reading

Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns, Police Chief Kevin Dresker, and deputy fire chief Mike Buxton addressed the audience’s concerns. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times
Homeless meeting focuses on health, safety issues

Business owners and community members voiced concerns to city officials about trespassing,… Continue reading

Oak Harbor Best Western wins brand award

Best Western Plus in Oak Harbor received the Best Western Hotels &… Continue reading