There's a whole lot of to-do about this Saturday's Seattle release of Dry Fly Bourbon, which is being billed as "the first-ever commercially produced bourbon in Washington State." Half of the limited-release production of 480 bottles hit the streets last week in Spokane, where Dry Fly is based. Dry Fly distiller Patrick Donovan tells me that when he showed up for work that morning at 6 a.m., there was already a line of 200 people at the door and every $65 bottle was gone within two hours. So when the last 240 bottles of the lot go on sale this Saturday, August 6 at 10 a.m. at the Interbay Liquor Store, they're expecting more of the same, if not worse.
So what's the big deal? Dry Fly already produces a whiskey. Bourbon is a bit more specialized, though: to be classified as such, it must be made from at least 50 percent corn (whiskey is mostly wheat), and is usually aged for at least two years. Donovan says they added bourbon to their repertoire in order to take advantage of some of the state's other great crops: corn and malted barley. Made from all local ingredients and aged for three years in American Oak barrels, the new sauce is said to have notes of Madagascar vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, caramel and dried orange peel. The next batch, which is in barrels now, won't be released until late next year.
As for the claim that it's the state's first bourbon, or even the state's first bourbon since Prohibition, things get a little fuzzy there. According to HistoryLink.org, the first legal distillery to emerge from the state's dry spell in the 1930s was called Northwest Distilleries Inc., which began production in a three-story building on Westlake Ave. N in 1934. Their first release was called Mello Smooth Dry Gin, and was followed by Mello Morn Straight Bourbon (a dash in your coffee? Don't mind if I do!). The company apparently disappears from the record books around 1940.
Dry Fly was indeed the first distillery to pop up in the state since then, in 2007. And by the sound of their Washington Bourbon, I'd gladly start my day with it, too. Whether or not it's the first, as it stands right now, it is our only locally-made corn mash.
If you have something more important to do on Saturday morning than stand in the whiskey line, you can also get a taste and be entered in a raffle to win a spot at the front of the line on Friday night, August 5, at the Mayflower Park Hotel downtown. This is a fundraising event to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities and Casting 4 A Cure; it will include specialty bites and cocktails made with Dry Fly's other fine spirits (gin, vodka and whiskey). Tickets are $75 and reservations can be made by emailing DryFly@evadopr.com.