When Kim Karrick wrote her proposal for Scratch Distillery to the bank, it was simple: “One vodka and two gins, GINiology class, rent the space out for events,” she says. Four years later, the Edmonds, Washington, company offers over a dozen different selections, runs classes almost every weekend and boasts a membership with around 200 members.
The idea for a gin-focused distillery, where everything is “made from scratch,” came after Karrick and her husband Bryan spent a week in London in 2013. That was where her lifelong love of gin sprouted into a full-time craft.
“We were checking out gins instead of doing the wine thing,” she says of their beverage norm on vacation. “I was just fascinated with how complex it was and how many variations there are to gin.”
Karrick returned home to Washington and began working on plans to open Scratch Distillery. She had always been toying with the idea of opening a winery but realizing that she would be just one of around 950 wineries in the state helped her make the decision to go a different route.
“Even when we got into winemaking at home, gin was always there as our go-to spirit,” Karrick says. “Gin has always been our passion.”
Thus, Scratch was born in 2015 in the scenic downtown Edmonds with the seemingly simple mission of making everything from scratch, while using the highest-quality fresh ingredients.
When Scratch first began, Karrick thought the concept would sell better through distributors right out of the gate. But at odds with some of her early distributors, Karrick decided to focus the business on its tasting room — a sleek, modern barroom with tile backsplashes. Everything is color coordinated — black, white and lime green matching the branding. In one direction a massive decal that reads “Gin Equals Love” takes up an entire wall.
Distributors “all wanted to pigeonhole us into a certain price point,” Karrick says. “It’s hard to find a distributor that values what you’re doing.”
Keeping it in house, Scratch launched a Spirits Club, in which members receive three bottles each quarter; members can enjoy a cocktail on the house at pick up. Other benefits like a private tour and tasting for you and eight friends each year. Karrick says the club has seen a huge uptick in membership since last summer, now with almost 200 members. The guaranteed memberships allow her to keep producing liquor on a set schedule. “It builds your army of raving fans,” she adds. “So we’ve doubled down focus on the club.”
Karrick founded Scratch to be a social gathering station, a base for education and experimentation. “For us, this has been about connecting to the community,” she says.
THE ART OF GIN MAKING
These passions are embodied through Scratch’s GINiology class — a unique experience where attendees create their own gin recipe and take home a bottle of the finished product. If an attendee wanted to nerd out on the science of gin and learn history that will surprise and intrigue, all over a few expertly-crafted cocktails, this class is the class for them.
The eight-person class is ran by the Karricks and several volunteer mixologists pouring drinks and helping with the final task of the night — the gin creation.
The night begins with a few minutes of socializing over a cocktail and the group is seated around the U-shaped, white granite bar while the Karricks take their place behind. The husband and wife duo take turns guiding the class through the history of gin and the progression of its methodology, then for a tour of the distillery itself, the massive copper column still standing to the ceiling.
The class is informative about Scratch’s own techniques of making gin, including the simple distinction to use fresh botanicals over dried whenever possible. This leads into the final, and most exciting, segment of the class: the making of the gin. The Karricks help each person design an individualized gin recipe using 33 preselected botanicals.
Attendees are encouraged to taste each botanical in neutral grain alcohol to find out which flavors they like. Once taste buds are consulted, along with the Karricks, the mixologists get to work making the individualized bottlings. The result is a completely custom, high-quality bottle of gin. Each attendee leaves with their own bottle of gin and has the opportunity to reorder the same bottle at any time.
Now four years into the venture, Karrick’s original proposal of three spirits, private events and classes has expanded to reach a broader community.
“We offer 16 products on and off. Don’t think there’s isn’t a reason to come here just because you’re not a gin fan,” Karrick says. “Because first of all, I’m going to try to convert you, but also there’s a lot else to choose from.”
Scratch now offers bier schnapps and an award-winning whiskey, the latter Karrick says sells out before it’s even out of the barrel. The distiller says she’s excited about the future of Scratch, but content to keep working away. “We built out the space three times as much as we originally planned, but we we’re thinking ‘go big or go home’ and hoping that we bet right.”