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Palouse farmer branching out into whiskey

Thu., June 17, 2010

Will use Spokane distillery

Colfax farmer Tim Danaher made wine in his bedroom closet when he was a teenager. Now the 59-year-old has plans to launch a second career selling his own whiskey.

Danaher and his wife run a wheat and barley farm of nearly 1,900 acres in the Palouse. After taking a class last year at Spokane’s Dry Fly Distilling Inc., Danaher is ready for the next step in the three-year whiskey-making process.

His blend will be called a “Hibernian” whiskey, using a recipe – or “mash bill” – Danaher got from an Irish book. Since the blend won’t be bottled in Ireland, Danaher said he can’t call it an Irish whiskey.

Danaher will use his own barley and wheat, then add a gelatinized oat mixture to the mash.

He’s the first local grower to arrange and pay for distilling at Spokane’s Dry Fly, which became Washington’s first boutique distillery in 2007.

Dry Fly makes its own wheat whiskey from grains grown in Eastern Washington. The privately owned distillery gained approval in the last legislative session to provide contract distilling – making alcohol that others will bottle and sell on their own.

Under Danaher’s arrangement, he brings ingredients to Dry Fly and pays the Spokane company an undisclosed distilling fee, based on the number of barrels.

The goal is to distill about six barrels of wheat whiskey this year, Danaher said. Next year he hopes to boost it to 12 barrels.

The whiskey will be aged for three years before it’s ready to sell.

Most whiskey is distilled twice; Danaher will triple-distill this batch to make it smoother, he said – “It won’t burn when it goes down.”

Dry Fly will store his first batch of wheat whiskey, though Danaher is also applying for a federal distilling license. The license will allow Danaher to bottle and store whiskey on his own property, said Dry Fly co-owner Don Poffenroth.

Danaher expects to sell the whiskey for roughly $40 per fifth. “This is not whiskey you’ll be adding 7-Up to. It’s custom-blended,” he said.

Poffenroth said Dry Fly is talking to other area farmers about similar deals, but Danaher Farms is the only contract job arranged so far.

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