Local Hardware Distillery Embodies the Spirit of Scandinavia

A Hood Canal couple has turned a retirement hobby into a full-fledged distillery, complete with fjord-crossing aquavit

By Chris Robinson


June 14, 2019

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Seattle Magazine.

This article appears in print in the June 2019 issue. Click here to subscribe.

While many children follow in their parents’ footsteps, Jan and Chuck Morris found themselves in the opposite scenario. Their son, Cody, was already a successful brewmaster in Seattle (he founded and ran Epic Ales in SoDo until 2015 and Mollusk Brewing in South Lake Union until earlier this year) when, in 2012, the elder Morrises decided to open a distillery as a retirement hobby. Neither of them had any experience. “We always enjoyed spirits, but did not think of operating a distillery until later in life,” Jan says. Chuck adds, with a sly grin: “Unlike Cody, we decided to delve into the more mature art of distilling.” 

They created The Hardware Distillery Co., setting up the business in a 1930s building they bought on the picturesque shores of Hood Canal after relocating from Seattle. While many distilleries pride themselves on being singularly focused on making a specific spirit, the Morrises dabble in a little bit of everything: vodka, whiskey, gin and, perhaps the spirit they’re now best known for, aquavit.

“The fact that we are on a fjord, which is similar to the fjords of Scandinavia, makes it seem like the right place for aquavits,” Jan says. Reportedly, the cool salt air of the fjord is biochemically advantageous for the aromatic spirit. In 1805, Linie aquavit, a specific Norwegian potato-based variation of the spirit, was shipped from Norway bound for the East Indies. It failed to sell in that part of the world and was returned to Norway in 1807. When the aquavit was opened and sampled upon its return, its drinkers deemed that the constant rolling of the sherry barrels for two years, as well as temperature fluctuation on the ship, had matured the spirit, creating a darker, smoother and sweeter aquavit. 

On June 29, The Hardware Distillery Co. will hold its own version of this historic event: The third annual Fjordin Crossin will take place at 1 p.m., when a barrel of aged dill aquavit will set sail on board the 34-foot cabin cruiser Twanoh. It will cross Hood Canal from Hoodsport to Tahuya before returning, to be tasted neat or in cocktails at a 21-and-older Aquavit Garden set up at the Port of Hoodsport and sponsored by Harmony Hill Retreat Center. Additional events will take place between 2:30 and 5 p.m., including a post-sailing party in Hoodsport, cooking demonstrations at Olympic Stove & Spas and a touch tank for children. “While impossible to replicate the voyage of old, we have our own little traditions,” Jan says.

While the Morrises have been chugging along, producing spirits born out of passion, Cody has been preparing for his next move: He’ll open Shelton Brewing Company in a refurbished funeral home in Shelton this fall. After all, there’s plenty of room for both beer and spirits.

The Hardware Distillery Co.

Crabby Ginny gin
($17.50/375-milliliter bottle)
Distilled from Washington pears, cranberries and grain, Hardware Distillery’s Crabby Ginny has a smooth yet subtle fruity taste. Perfect in a Negroni, the famed Italian cocktail that includes Campari and sweet vermouth. Pairs with: Oysters and crab pulled fresh from Hood Canal.

Bee’s Knees mead
($25/375-milliliter bottle)
Made from a base of 80 percent Washington honey and 20 percent fruit, this mead concoction rests for three months in premium white American oak. Despite the high honey content, Bees Knees is surprisingly lacking in sweetness, but has a rich taste and golden color. Pairs with: Pies, cheesecakes and other baked goods.

($27/375-milliliter bottle)
Distilled from the clear, fresh waters of the Olympic Mountains, Hardware Distillery’s whiskey is kept in small copper stills that filter impurities from the spirit. Technically a lowland grain whiskey, this Scotch-style spirit has a gentle, floral taste. Pairs with: Pork ribs and dishes made with olives and roasted garlic.

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