When you walk into Glass Distillery (SoDo, 1712 First Ave. S; glassdistillery.com), it’s easy to see that its founder, painter, entrepreneur and philanthropist Ian MacNeil, has connections in the art community; glass art, paintings and stylish recycled wood are here in abundance. But, look farther into the distilling area, and you’ll see he has a tech-loving side, too: There’s a shiny, handmade German still, a bottling line made in Hungary and massive stainless tanks, all controlled by a liquid automation system. The whole thing gives off a decidedly Willy Wonka vibe.
None of that would matter much if the Glass spirits weren’t good; luckily, they’re delicious. The flavors of the Glass and Gridiron vodkas (and other spirits to come) are influenced by the decision to base the spirits on wine grapes—Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay—rather than from potatoes or grain. Also impacting the flavor: the use of pure water taken from artesian wells on co-owner Adrian Higginbotham’s eastern Washington wheat and hay farm. Adrian, a fourth-generation farmer, plans to soon begin growing the barley for the company’s future whiskey.
The care that goes into the process is obvious with the first sip of Glass vodka ($32.95 base price, plus tax). It has a very full mouthfeel and a slightly floral character, backed by hints of citrus and spice, with a rich ending sweetness. It’s ideal for sipping straight or mingling in a drink. Glass’s other vodka, Gridiron ($14.25 base price, plus tax), is like a younger sibling, with fewer knockout flavors, but wonderfully mixable. Upcoming releases will include gin, whiskey and vodka in limited-edition bottles with glass pieces from local artists—including Dale Chihuly and J.P. Canlis—embedded in the bottom of the bottles, with proceeds going to various local charities. That’s a plan worth a toast.