Steve Dunkelberger I Tacoma Weekly
Childhood friends Alan Davis and Jeff Robinette grew up in Lakewood and wanted to stay local when they set out to craft spirits that were not only good tasting but created a sense of place.
Chambers Bay Distillery opened in 2012. Bourbon mash was mixed. Alcohol distilled and the poured into oak barrels to age in 2014. They then waited. And waited. And waited. Their first spirit, Ghost Dog Whiskey – corn whiskey infused with ghost peppers – became a hit. It won a silver medal at the 2016 American Distilling Institute Craft Spirit Awards.
Then came Greenhorn Bourbon, a spirit that they wanted to create as locally as possible not just as a matter of economics but to create a flavor that simply could not be repeated anywhere else. The grains came from Grant County and the mashing yeast is a strain from University Place’s Curran Apple Orchard. The aging barrels are stored in a boathouse to not only take on the notes of the sea but as a way to rhythmically churn the bourbon to speed up the aging process. The first batch was aged for a year and a half before it went on to win a Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition last spring. It was the only gold awarded to a Washington distillery whiskey.
“It was our goal to create a bourbon that was as local and unique as possible,” Robinette said. “It’s as much of this part of the country as we could fit in a bottle.”
With whiskey and bourbon awards won, Chambers Bay set out to expand with a signature vodka line with Ran that hit the market in December. Pulling its name from Norse mythology, the vodka arrived last fall. Its uniqueness comes from being infused with sea salt from the San Juan Islands as a way to make a not only keep production local but also produce a flavor that is distinct without being considered just one of the “flavored vodka” that currently flood the market. The goal was to distill vodka that stands alone but also is distinct enough for bars to seek out while crafting their signature drink recipes.
“Bartenders are really getting creative with it,” Robinette said. “It’s the mineral water of vodka.”
Chambers Bay Distillery labels can be found at a couple dozen bars and stores around Tacoma as well as sampled at its tasting room in U.P. But early successes and growing demand means expansion plans are already in the works. Imagine visions of a destination distillery and restaurant along the waterfront or maybe even in the distillery’s namesake park. Expect more news on that front later this year as the distillery seeks investors and partnerships to add capacity.
“We would love to be part of the Chambers Bay resort in some way,” Davis said.Chambers Bay
Distillery has a tasting room open Wednesday through Friday from 4-7 p.m. and Saturday from 2-7 p.m. For more information on Chambers Bay Distillery, visit chambersbaydistillery.com.