For Chuckanut Bay Distillery, what started as a small distilling operation in 2011 has grown into much more. Following the purchase of the current location in Bellingham, Washington, the distillery released its first spirit, a Yukon Gold potato vodka in 2013. Five years and several spirit releases later, Chuckanut Bay is moving into a more expansive location in downtown Bellingham; the three-story building providing ample space to hold a tasting room, production facility and cocktail bar.
The distillery, known for its high-quality spirits, places an emphasis on utilizing locally sourced ingredients that come from within 27-mile radius of its location. For example, that first release of potato vodka came from 100 percent Skagit Valley potatoes.
Distillers and co-owners Matt Howell and Kelly Andrews are excited for their next venture and expansion, ready to show off their spirits at a new location that is more accessible to the public.
The new spot, located on Cornwall Avenue in Bellingham, will take over a historic building that dates back to 1905. The distillery’s facade will make heavy use of glass, exposing the inner-workings of the production process to the public, stills will be seen from the street and hope to serve as a beacon beckoning local drink enthusiasts inside.
The plan is to open a cocktail bar at the new location, Howell says. This way, Chuckanut Bay can demonstrate how the spirits should be used in cocktails, straight from the source. Not only will it provide an education program to the public, but it may entice customers to purchase a spirit they normally wouldn’t have, after tasting how it can be used in a professionally crafted cocktail.
“I am so excited to have a bar where we can craft drinks with our finished product,” Howell says. “We haven’t had that before.”
The distillery’s flagship spirits are vodka (wheat and potato), gin, bourbon and whiskey, plus the Old Busker coffee liqueur and the Krampus herbal liqueur but the potential with the new space is huge. “We will be modifying equipment to increase efficiency and [assist] with all sorts of new things we want to do,” Howell says, adding he is always dreaming up novel ideas and unique ways he can distill spirits.
With the move into the new building on the horizon, Howell says the most exciting element for him will be the ability to take spirits straight from the still and into a guest’s beverage. “I’m very excited to tailor our drink experience to folk’s tastes,” he adds.
The introduction of a full bar to the new space will allow Chuckanut Bay to put its spirits in the spotlight, and make it easier for many customers to understand why the team has won both national and international awards in the craft distilling community.
The new distillery will bump the square footage from 3,000 square feet to that of 18,000, and in the future, hold an event space and restaurant in addition to all other add-ons, aiming to open in late 2019.