SODO STORIES, MADE IN SODO SERIES: WESTLAND DISTILLERY
The SODO Stories, Made in SODO series, is a collection of stories about business owners who create, design and sell products that are made in SODO. The businesses featured in the Made in SODO series are all featured in our Made in SODO video. Each story/business is unique, and they help to create a vibrant community here in SODO. To watch the video, it can be found here: Made in SODO Video
Story: Jillian Celich | Photos: Vertizon Photography
A NEW WAVE OF MANUFACTURING IN SODO, ONE BARREL AT A TIME.
Westland Distillery – if you are a whiskey connoisseur, you know the name. If you aren’t, what you need to know is that Westland is carrying the flag in crafting American single malt whiskey. But what makes Westland whiskey truly unique is the homage they pay to their Pacific Northwest roots including making the whiskey right here in SODO.
The Pacific Northwest presence in Westland begins with their name and logo. The name, “Westland” serves as a representation of their tasting room being stationed here in Seattle. Their logo showcases the correlation between the logging industry that once was so prevalent in the northwest, and the oak barrels that Westland currently uses to store and age their whiskey. This theme is carried through inside their tasting room, where reclaimed wood from Yakima hangs down to spell out Westland, and shelves are stocked with merchandise that is all made in Seattle. But for Westland, the Pacific Northwest representation is more than in their name and logo, its directly in their whiskey too, with 86 percent of their manufacturing materials coming from within the state. They strive to use locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, working with local farmers in Skagit Valley for their crops to get the perfect Pacific Northwest flavor, to champion the single malt category in the United States.
Westland’s passion and precision in creating the perfect whiskey is evident when you walk into their facility. On one side is where the creation takes place, filled with machines to malt the barley, mash machines to ground down the malt, and two copper stills to distill the whiskey. On the other side they have a whiskey chemistry lab, that includes a blending lab for taste-testing the whiskey. The center aisle is where the casks are stored for the maturation process. By distilling the whiskey here, Westland has brought a new wave of manufacturing to the SODO neighborhood. Tyler Pederson, the head distiller at Westland, believes being a part of the industrial SODO neighborhood contributes to Westland’s history. The building that hosts their tasting room once belonged to Ederer, Inc., a Seattle based crane company. Ederer’s last project was putting the roof onto Safeco Field, now T Mobile Park. Additionally, Tyler said that Westland matures some of their whiskey in an old manufacturing building in Hoquiam, Washington, the original logging town in the northwest. For Westland, being located in SODO comes back full circle- they get to be located in the original manufacturing district in Seattle, and tell a story with their building and history, which helps to create a sense of place in their whiskey.
It has taken hard work for Westland to get where they are; the whiskey business is difficult to break into, and it can be challenging to find your brand and product and stay truthful to it. The Whiskey distilling business is relatively new to America, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Whiskey was first created in Scotland and was used as currency during the American Revolutionary War. Eventually, distilling whiskey made its way to the west side of the United States, and it was discovered that the Pacific Northwest is the perfect environment to for making whiskey, as the wet and cold of the northwest mimics that of Scotland and helps with the maturation process of the whiskey. Because of the growth in the whiskey industry in the northwest, distillers looking to go into the business can now take classes at a distillery school located in Tumwater, Washington. Tyler said the school provides hands on training, such as how to fix a pump in addition to theory on the history of whiskey. Tyler himself had a little bit of training, but is mostly self-taught, and now is in an online program through a distillery school in Scotland. Tyler has been with Westland since the beginning and has worked his up to the head distiller position. He loves being able to come to Westland everyday and work for a company he believes in.
Going to Westland is an experience, from being able to fill your own bottle of whiskey, to seeing the inside of their tasting room, being in SODO helps to elevate the experience. Tyler believes the SODO neighborhood is often overlooked, and doing fun events such as the SODO Crawl, a joint event with SeaPine Brewery and Ghostfish Brewery, helps to promote the local scene in Seattle. He also believes that SODO has great infrastructure with easy access that can bring people from Beacon Hill, Rainier Beach, West Seattle and the Downtown core to experience the area. Tyler said he loves SODO because it is wide open here, no skyscrapers blocking views, just an area where he can look out and enjoy the romantic Pacific Northwest view while sipping Westland whiskey. This is why Westland is thoughtfully Made in SODO.
A special thanks to Seattle’s Office of Economic Development Only in Seattle Program for sponsoring a portion of the Made in SODO project.