Way, way off the beaten path, in an old-growth forest on Orcas Island, Charles West is creating award-winning spirits from heirloom, island-grown fruits.
West owns and operates Orcas Island Distillery. It’s a business born from a retirement hobby. In his previous life he was a journalist and outdoorsman. He’s even been to mixology school (though he leaves the mixology to the professionals). It’s this desire to know everything about everything that has made his journey into distilling an award-winning one.
A few years ago, West found himself with 12 tons of apples from old-growth orchards around the island. What do you do with all those apples? You make brandy. He used a 1-gallon distilling kit his son bought him and created his first batch of spirits. And that was all it took to launch his second career.
His unique spirit is Ferry Dock Genever-style gin—an old-world recipe from Belgium and Holland. It has to, by law, be 51 percent malted barley. The rest is the distiller’s choice. He chooses barley and rests his gin in rye barrels for a short period of time, gathering the nuanced flavor of rye. The result is a clean, juniper-flavored gin with hints of malt.
His spirits include: Ferry Dock Gin, Island Orchard Pear Brandy, Hard Apple Brandy, Apple Brandy Eau de Vie, West Island Whiskey. His small-batch distilling limits his distribution to the islands, so if you’re in the area I’d highly suggest setting up a tasting.
Orcas Island Distillery
Tastings by appointment only
360.376.7077 | orcasislanddistillery.com
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