Office Hours

A short history lesson: who did make the first true Washington state bourbon?

We spotted one Washington website that wondered if Dry Fly Distilling really is producing the first-ever bourbon made in the state.

The site included a link to the image here. It's from an ad for Seattle company Northwest Distilleries dating from roughly 1933. Did that firm make bourbon well before Dry Fly?

Likely not.

According to some spirits historians, true bourbon could only be distilled in Bourbon County, Kentucky, up through 1969. We have to acknowledge that view isn't universally shared; some say there was no legal requirement that "straight" bourbon had to be made in Kentucky.

In any event, Don Poffenroth, who co-founded Dry Fly in Spokane, believes the spirit listed in the 1933 ad is among those that were made based on loose distilling standards in the early half of the 20th century.

A company could order or buy some bourbon from a true distiller, and then add some components and call it a bourbon, according to Poffenroth. He's of the opinion that's what happened, as Washington didn't have a true distillery in the 1930s. In fact, Dry Fly was the only true distillery in the state when it opened in 2007.

As Poffenroth noted: A lot of people confused "bottled" with distilled.

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Tom Sowa
Tom Sowa covers technology, retail and economic development and writes the Office Hours blog.




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