During Prohibition, Ben Lazowski’s grandfather worked as a bootlegger for infamous gangster Al Capone. Young Ben grew up hearing stories of his grandfather’s adventures (with certainly a few misadventures) and exploring secret passageways in this grandfather’s Chicago home. It’s ironic that years of alcohol prohibition could spark a fascination with the stuff decades later.
Ben teamed up with his wife Stacey to begin distilling as a hobby in 2010. The couple spent two- and-half years developing the product line, paying special attention to quality and details. They use locally sourced ingredients in their small batch operation, making for a full-on Washington product. Ben explained why spirits manufacturing is better in smaller quantities, “Small batch means you can take more care in the quality of a product. You’re not focused on the volume, so you can pay more attention to detail.”
Currently, they make seven varieties of small batch spirits to include Ascension Vodka with its clean, smooth finish, and the popular Benjamin’s Bourbon with hints of vanilla and spice. Try their Red X Gin in a Gibson, or sip a glass of anise-flavored Spider Bite Liqueur. They sell bottles of spirits along with accessories in the Valley Shine Distillery and in select local markets.
The Lazowskis opened Valley Shine Distillery in April 2016, and we’re glad they did. Ben’s background is general contracting, so he took charge of the five-month remodel in the 100-year-old building. Ben and Stacey, a buyer for a large retailer, oversaw all the design components, making the space a reflection of the duo.
Find yourself in the downtown Mount Vernon storefront and take a seat at the bar. On a sunny January afternoon light filters into the large windows showcasing the storefront’s clean lines, unfinished hardwood floors, red-brick wall, industrial accents, and sliding barnyard door. An intoxicating scent of chocolate cake baking mingles with toffee liqueur and hangs in the air, a clear indication that the chef is preparing desserts for the evening. A few uncluttered shelves hold cocktail making supplies, tee shirts, and bottles of Valley Shine spirits, all for sale.
It doesn’t need to be evening to enjoy a cocktail. Choose from an array of unique and traditional cocktails, or a tasting flight to sample all of Valley Shine’s spirits. Recently added to the menu are tapas, small entrees, and desserts to munch on, allowing you to savor cocktail after cocktail without hunger pangs.
Ben and Stacey began distilling as a hobby, but took on a larger mission, to offer residents “a higher-quality spirit at a reasonable price made by someone in the community.” They want to expose local community members to locally made high quality spirits and educate patrons on the distilling process. They hope to grow along Western Washington, setting their sights on Snohomish and King county this year. They are working towards hosting larger events, for example a special four course Valentine’s Day dinner with seating at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Space is limited so call to make a reservation.
Want to know more about what you’re drinking? Ben and Stacey gladly take customers on a quick tour of the on-site distillery and offer tasting samples if you’re curious about a certain spirit. They also host in-depth and group tours with advanced notification. It sounds like a unique outing for a spirit lover’s next birthday.
As for personalized recommendation, Ben likes sipping on an Old Fashioned, and they keep it classic here to let the bourbon shine: bourbon, bitters, and orange zest. We’re sure Al Capone would approve.
320 S. 1st St., Mount Vernon