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Scratch Distillery

Spirits made from scratch, part 2

In part 1, we learned how Kim and Bryan Karrick started Scratch Distillery and their products. This month we look at their early beginnings and where they want Scratch to go.

Outdoor and athletic enthusiasts, Kim and Bryan met at Michigan State University when both were on the intramural water polo team. "I wanted to go out with her, so I ingratiated myself with her roommate, walking the mile to their dorm," recalls Bryan. "Kim was sitting outside enjoying the first day of spring warmth. I offered to make her a gin and tonic; that started it." Kim laughs. "It was not my first gin and tonic." They had their first date that night. Kim focused on business and marketing, Bryan was a science major and went on to Optometry school. When he graduated, he moved three hours away for a job, she ended up in Chicago, he went to Oklahoma. When he came home, they got married. Living in Chicago, they took advantage of city life, but there was no real outdoor activity. "It's flat and cold. We used to drive 11 hours to Minnesota to kayak." Bryan traveled to the Northwest in 1994 to visit a friend in Corvallis. "It was February and we went mountain biking and car camping. Then I went home to a blizzard. We looked at each other and said, 'what are we doing here?' We started to look at where we'd like to move. We looked at both Portland and Seattle, but Portland has an optometry graduate school. We felt that with graduates right there, it might be harder for me to find a job."

Kim did some auditing and worked temporarily at Microsoft. "We wanted our own business. We bought a practice in North Bend with a partner; my name was on the door, but Kim was 51% of the solution. We were there five years. We were in our 30s and sold the practice to another optometrist and bought into a larger practice in Edmonds, Edmonds Eye Care Association. Kim helped manage and grow the business." After a few years, Kim left for a traveling sales position, mainly to Alaska and Montana. After 4-5 years, she was tired of the traveling, and decided to take some time to decide what she wanted to do. For four years, she volunteered at Rotarian, and as an adoption counselor for Purrfect Pals Cat Shelter. They traveled, indulging their love of beer in England, and wine in South America and France. With friends in London, they visited and learned all about gin, taking a botanicals class and trying regional gins. "I geeked out about it," laughs Kim.

After returning home in 2013, Kim picked up an Artisan Spirits magazine to learn more about distilling. A week-long class was offered nearby in Washington organized by a professor at Central Washington University. Kim took it, promising Bryan that afterward she would either 'shut up about distilling or move forward.' After the course, she was in. Now they have over ten medals awarded by various competitions, 15 products, numerous outlets that carry various items, and restaurants that stock their spirits. "We're not very pushy people, so now we have a distributor and feel that wholesale will continue to increase at both retail outlets and restaurants. I had kind of a 'build it and they will come' attitude toward sales and that only partially happened. We're ultra-premium, so we need people to taste the difference. Because it's just us, we focused mainly on our backyard: Edmonds. Consequently, sales outside of our space have grown more slowly than we'd like." Kim adds, "Growth has taken longer; it's been three years to get where I wanted to be. There are 120 distilleries in Washington, yet local spirits account for less than 1.2% of sales. The other surprise for me is how much we work: every minute of every day for 5-6 years. If I'm not here, I'm at home on the computer. That sounds bad, but I am a workaholic and really love this. It's a great combination of process and art." "It's the right thing for Kim," Bryan says. "She's found something she's good at and passionate about. And I've found that even though I'm moving from optometry to our tasting room, the space is so pleasant to work in, it's really fun. A tasting room invites curiosity and we have new people and regulars who are great to talk with. There are no TVs; it's a space to connect with other people and relax."

Their Scratch Pride Spirits Club includes multiple bottles quarterly with a pick-up event; special releases (small batch) twice a year; early access to new releases; special parties; 15% discount on GINiology classes, cocktails, cocktail classes, space rental; and a private, scheduled tour and tasting once a year for eight people. It's a one-year commitment with no initiation fee.

Tour times are weekends at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m., $20. If you're looking for a fun venue for a party, the space is available for rental. The tasting room is a great spot to explore. Currently, State law prohibits distilleries from serving more than two ounces per person per day. "It shouldn't be different from wineries, but it is," says Bryan. "It's something the industry is working on to get changed."

Legally, they can only serve what they make, so the future holds some other possibilities, like Amaro and the apple brandy that's been in barrel for 8-9 months and has 1-2 years to go. Other future plans may include taking GINiology on the road and working to increase the number of visits to the tasting room. If the current law changes, they may consider opening tasting rooms elsewhere. With plenty of energy and ideas, Bryan and Kim will keep Scratch in the forefront of the industry. Watch and taste.

Kim with juniper berries

Scratch Distillery
190 Sunset Ave S, Ste A
Edmonds, WA 98020
425-673-7046

scratchdistillery.com

Check out their cocktail recipes online

Read Scratch Distillery, part 1, here

Connie Adams/March 2019


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