Chuckanut Bay Distillery owners Matt Howell and Kelly Andrews aim to make the highest quality spirits using as many regional ingredients as possible. So far, the pair have created a gluten-free potato vodka and a wheat vodka. Soon, their gin and coffee liqueur will hit the shelves of stores and nearby bars.
The potato vodka, made exclusively of Skagit Valley Yukon Gold potatoes, won the Double Gold Medal at the New York International Spirits Competition. Chuckanut Bay Distillery is now one of two vodkas in the world to have this award.
“Our potato vodka has the character of potatoes,” Howell said. “It has Skagit Valley terroir.” This competition also named them Washington State Distillery of the year.
Chuckanut Bay Distillery has only been open for business since October 2013, but Howell and Andrews are already distributing their products all over Whatcom, Skagit and King counties. The duo originally came up with the idea to distill their own spirits in 2008, but it wasn’t until 2011 that they formed Chuckanut Bay Distillery. Andrews previously worked as a brewer at Hales, while Howell worked in the wine industry. Both had passion and a curiosity for distillation and fermentation.
Howell remembers that one day Andrews called him up and said, “Aren’t you sick of working 80 hours a week for someone else? Let’s start our own business.” Immediately the business partners knew they wanted to source ingredients for the spirits locally.
“It doesn’t make sense to outsource ingredients when people are struggling locally,” Howell said. “We have such wonderful farmlands.” Howell emphasized how good it feels to know the people they are doing business with. He said many farmers have extra land that isn’t used because there isn’t a demand for extra crop. Chuckanut Bay Distillery’s potato vodka uses, on average, 37 potatoes per bottle to ensure a “well-rounded spirit with a long, smooth finish.”
Spirit enthusiasts and curious newbies alike can taste this potato vodka along with Howell and Andrew’s other products in their tasting room at 1115 Railroad Avenue Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m..
1115 Railroad Ave., Bellingham