Island distillery moves permitting plans forward

Since distilling laws were relaxed by the state Legislature last year, local distilleries have begun to spring up across Washington.

On Bainbridge, there are two pending applications for craft distillers licenses, out of 11 applications in the state.

“Since the licensing laws changed we’ve definitely seen an increased interest in craft distilling,” said Anne Radford of the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

Under the new laws, craft distilleries can produce up to 20,000 gallons of spirits per year. A craft distillers license also allows for on-site sale and sampling of spirits. Because of this, the WSLCB has a 14-day mail-in public comment period for pending island distillery licenses.

One of the start-up island distilleries, Hidden Cove Distillery, has been stalled by federal authorities despite conditional license approval by the state.

The Hidden Cove facility would have produced spirits at a private residence, something expressly prohibited under federal distilling laws.

One of the entrepreneurs involved in the company said Hidden Cove will likely move to Seattle to conform to federal regulations.

Another distilling operation, the Free Range Distilling Company, is in the midst of license approval at the state level.

The operation would be established in the Sportsman Business Park, and would create organic gin, vodka and whiskey made from raw materials grown on the island and in the state.

Under craft distillery regulations, at least half of the raw materials used to create spirits must be bought in Washington.

Owners of the start-up are still uncertain what the business will look like until licenses are finalized.

“It’s kinda like being halfway through making a cake,” said co-owner Keith Barnes. “It’s not in the oven yet and we won’t know what it will look like or how it will taste.”

The new laws regarding state distilleries were outlined in House Bill 2959, which was passed in the House and Senate in March 2008 with only one dissenting vote.

Distilleries must comply with all federal regulations.

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