What Will We Do Today?
As we (my wife and I) wake up from sleeping in a little bit on our Winter vacation as we are both educators, my wife Stacie being a PE teacher of seventeen years and myself, a principal in a small Northwest Community of Morton, we lay in bed wondering what to do. Well, she actually already planned on snowshoeing. However, I must have had other plans because I was not pushing that all so much if you know what I mean. I scroll through my smartphone thinking of what how I can get my passion for whisk(e)y out to others more and then come across a small google review of a place known as the Blackfish Distillery (https://www.blackfishdistillery.com/).
I have been to many and researched quite a few of the local distilleries, but this one has not crossed my radar, and I thought to myself, “Auburn is not too far, let’s do it,” and of course my wife (www.thewhiskeyloverswife.com) was all for supporting me and my passion. So we were off, with the boys in the back of the 2012 Prius. One boy with his throw on clothes and snow boots just barely making in the car and the other dressed to the brim with his old fashion hat, coat, slacks, and dress shoes ready to make an impression on whatever life brings him.
Where is this place?
After spending more time in traffic as than we planned, but all worth it as that time is still quality time with the family as compared to so many other choices such as sitting around and watching television and playing video games. Then we find it, tucked away
off the West Valley Highway in a local industrial site. Most likely because the distillery is there as well as the tasting room and so an ample space is needed to support that type of industry is needed. Scrolled across the front of the tasting room and a parked van outside stated that we were at the Blackfish Distillery.
Come on In!
So we step inside, and we see a very lovely decorated tasting room, a smaller one compared to others, but you can tell a lot of care of planning went in for a specific look. Everything from the bottles of spirits that they offer, to decorations of an almost vintage type look supporting the t-shirts and items that were also for sale. In the back, we notice a gentleman that greets us and asks us how we were doing. Of course, just kind of share that we were interested in the experience of the Blackfish Distillery. With an excitement and no hesitation he pulls us to the back and introduces us to his two children working that day one that has a degree in astrophysics that focuses on the science and math part and the other son that is the English major and focuses on the story of the Black Fish Distillery.
He introduced himself as Michael and seems to hit it off with our oldest Luke as he was wearing the same old time hat and coat as him, however, Michael’s was from Dublin, Ireland, but nice. We explain that this is more than just tasting alcohol, this is a family
thing as the youngest, Lane, wants to be a brewer and explains the connection to the old Tumwater Brewery. I think Michael was just struck by the two youngest boys as throughout the tour he continued to connect some of the stories of him and his boys growing up and “building” things and those experiences. During this whole time it felt like just an old-fashioned get together with some friends and family. As we got to hear first hand the journey of the family and distillery and as well as the intricate parts from the constructed pot still purchased online from a man in Spain to the continuing growing column stills that his son continues to make taller for the high proof spirits. I will leave more of the family part to my wife and her blog at www.thewhiskeyloverswife.com.
The Spirits of Black Fish Distillery
As we finish up the good time talking and visiting, we move on to one of my favorite parts of the tour. At this time I get to sample some of the spirits that the distillery produces as well as hear some of the tasting notes. I was pretty set on focusing on the whiskey productions. However, we did try some of their liquors such as the coffee and chocolate which were fantastic. The coffee and chocolate being made from local coffee and chocolate as well were so exciting and tasty. I, myself, do not drink liquors that all that much, but if my wife likes it, then that says a lot as the whiskey lover’s wife. We start out with their unaged whiskey also known as “white dog” or “white lightning.” My wife
throws out there, “moonshine?” as Michaels replies, “well if we were making it illegally and not paying taxes” as we all chuckle. For a 110 proof spirit, it was deceptively smooth with a 70% corn, 25% malted barley, and 5% chocolate barley. The chocolate barley is the only grain that is shipped from Scotland. This produces a lovely, but balanced white whiskey with the barley and if you sip it, then you get the mildest chocolate profile at the end which makes it great for cocktails. Michaels adds a little sweet tea to show how when adding sugar back into a whiskey then it brings up the flavor profiles that are distilled out and that is what makes a great cocktail. We then move on to the aged bourbon whiskey. The aged bourbon is the white whiskey mash bill but then aged in a new American oak barrel for two years that when tasted adds the other notes in an aged whiskey such as the vanilla, caramel, toffee, etc. Lastly, the bottle that I am going to review is the Doc. Brewer’s rye aged whiskey.
Blackfish Distillery Doc Brewer’s Rye Whiskey
Mash Bill: 70% malted rye, 30% malted barley (malted means they add moisture so it
started to sprout and releases the sugars and enzymes)
Color: Dark amber almost brown color like caramelized sugar on fruit
Smell (with a few drops of water (to open up): Initial smell of overripe fruit and vanilla and heavy baking spices. Contains a distinct rye smell that is hard to describe that is almost musty and spicy smelling. When left in a glass overnight, there is a little residue when not cleaned that is a powerful chocolate smell.
Taste (with a few drops of water to open up): Spicey flavor on the front of the tongue and dissipates through the back. taste of clove spices and pepper. Strong vanilla and sugar with slight citrus tones when water is added. The taste starts out strong and becomes balanced towards the end of the
palate. Do get some bitter leather and tobacco flavors as well as vanilla from the new American oak barrel that it is aged in.
Final Thought: A fine rye whiskey, in terms of local craft whiskeys, I would say one of the better ones I have had. I enjoy it alone, but I could see it making a really good traditional Manhatten. Definitely worth the drive and visit as well as picking up a bottle to share with your friends and family.
I would like to thank Michael Gifford from the Blackfish Distillery for taking us in and sharing what great things you and your family are doing for us in the Northwest!
Visit Blackfish Distillery
420 37th St NW Suite A
Auburn, WA 98001