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Scratch Distillery

Spirits made from scratch, part 1

'Gin Equals Love' for Kim and Bryan Karrick, owners of Scratch Distillery in Edmonds. The end game for many distilleries is brown spirits. Gin and vodka are made to get something on the market quickly to finance the time it takes to age what they really want to make. Not so for Scratch Distillery where everything is made from scratch from local, organic products, and they love gin and the process of making it. But it hasn't kept them from creating other spirits, including whiskey.

"When you decide to do this, you can go one of two ways," says Kim. "You can start small, outgrow your space, move and start again. Or you can do what we did and go big. We opened here in July 10, 2015, and we're at about 50% capacity now. We started with three products and now have 15. We wanted space to distill, for customers to relax and our Scratch Pride Spirits Club to meet, a tasting room, sales, and space to rent for events."

Gin is made from vodka, and Scratch has also created four infused vodkas from their base of organic, non-GMO wheat based vodka. They make a barrel-finished pepper vodka as well. "We knew from the beginning we would make more than one gin infused with juniper. As I was coming up with my own recipes, I had 120 jars on our table at home with different botanicals, including different strains of juniper. This was when we stopped entertaining at home," laughs Kim. "They were all labeled and led to our vodkas. Different gins are needed to make different drinks; we like something more savory for a martini, and more citrus and floral for a gin and tonic, and we have a barrel-finished gin. We want people to have different things to come back and try. From a business perspective, we wanted diversity. I love both the creativity and the educational side of things, which I got from the two years I spent working at Sparkman Cellars."

Bryan and Kim have no partners, which makes it more difficult financially, but they love being able to make decisions and execute. Bryan still works as an optometrist in Edmonds; Kim is 100% Scratch. "We really want to keep it to ourselves. We see the path," says Kim. "We learned along the way. People shared theory with us, but not the numbers I needed. There were some surprises, like finding out the floors were not strong enough to support the stills when we were building out in October of 2014. Then in 2015, the equipment being shipped from Germany got caught up in the longshoreman dispute. The mash equipment didn't arrive for 2-1/2 more months."

Rather than deterring them, they found other products to create. "Sparkman Cellars had a Sauvignon Blanc that we distilled into a base vodka. American Brewing Company had a flat IPA (too little carbonation) they weren't using, and we turned it into a spirit that brewers share in Germany. That led to a Bier Schnaps series."

Their Edmond's Own Whiskey is a single-barrel straight whiskey aged in new American oak for two years. "We ran out right away. We kept two bottles for ourselves just for sipping," Bryan laughs. The second barrel was released in November 2018, the day after Sip Northwest Magazine awarded it double gold. "Our next whiskey release will be late March 2019," says Kim. "Most sells by futures before it's even out of barrel. It can be purchased on our website shop page as well. In 2018, we laid down seven barrels instead of two, so hopefully 1-1/2 years from now we won't run out between barrels. We make whiskey because it's more popular than gin. Vodka used to be huge, but it's diminishing. People want something more interesting. It was a personal challenge because I've never been a whiskey drinker. I wanted to create a flavor profile without the 'burn', using softer grains that don't need to age as long." Bryan adds, "We tried proofing it from 80 to 100 to see how we could balance taste and smell. At 88, it smelled the best, but we lost the balance on the finish. We landed at 83, giving up a little of the smell we liked, but getting the mouth feel and finish we wanted."

Never intending to make Aquavit, it came about via an experiment of Kim's. "We were in the process of making vodka, fermenting starch to alcohol, with ethanol and other compounds that change in the barrel. As things heat up, you get heads (components that separate one molecule at a time when heated slowly), hearts (good ethanol), and tails (heavier molecules you want in whiskey). You don't want tails in vodka, so we put it in a neutral barrel and checked it once a month. In seven months, our potato spirit hit the magic point. We infused it with caraway and dill. Caraway defines Aquavit. We created a second version using wheat and called it WAquavit, again adding caraway and dill, plus cardamom and orange peel."

While they are not certified organic, primarily due to the cost, they do use organic ingredients from Fairhaven Organic in Skagit Valley and Warden, southeast of Moses Lake. They grow some of their own botanicals. Most of their gin is wheat-based, but the gin used for GINiology™ is potato-based. "Ninety-eight percent of what we use comes from the state of Washington," says Bryan. "We believe in supporting the farmers who are trying to do things right."

GINiology™ classes speak to Kim and Bryan's belief that everyone has their own flavor profile and was part of the original business plan. They have distilled over 30 separate botanicals used to make most gins. People can explore and find the botanicals that work for them and create their own recipe, then take a bottle home that night. Even better, they can reorder their custom gin at any time. While there, a couple of gin cocktails can be enjoyed, and the history and production of gin understood. There's a tour of the distillery as well.

Watch for Scratch Distillery part 2 in our March issue

Scratch Distillery
190 Sunset Ave S, Ste A
Edmonds, WA 98020

Check out their cocktail recipes online


Connie Adams/February 2019

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