Sandstone Distillery has quickly become a popular attraction in Thurston County. Visitors from all over the region are sipping their hand-crafted spirits. While their traditional drinks are the star of the show, there is something special in the works that will leave many drinkers wondering, “What the…?”
“Well, it all started as a hobby,” explains John Bourdon, Sandstone Distillery owner. “I had a trucking company and was ready to move on to a new venture so we sold the trucking company, took some time off, and then decided to do a distillery.”
The roots of Tenino are what brought Sandstone Distillery to life. “The quarries were the anchor of this community,” describes Bourdon. “We’ve been a part of this community for 30 years. I come to find out that across the street from our location was a family that originally homesteaded here in 1902. We wanted to talk to the neighbors before starting. If it was going to be offensive or not a good fit with our neighborhood, we would have to choose a different location. It was important to us that our community supported our business. It turned out they were all on board. Their grandfather immigrated from Scotland and owned one of the sandstone quarries from Tenino. It turned out to be the perfect spot.”
Just like the community of Tenino, the spirits here evolve and change over time. Their newest gin release evolved from an experiment gone right. “We modified our distillation columns,” he shares. “When we changed it, it changed the botanicals of our gin. The first time we tried to make our gin it took three batches to get it back to our recipe. The booze wasn’t bad in the other batches, but it was different. Soon after I accidentally loaded white whiskey into a batch of gin so now we have this weird alcohol. You can’t just throw it out so we stuck it in a corner for a while. To destroy it is a huge hassle. We needed the space in that corner so we were trying to figure out what to do with this gin.”
“The rage at the time was to age the gin,” continues Bourdon. “We decided to do an experiment. We put some of the gin into a mason jar and charred oak to see what it would do. All I could think was WTF am I going to do with this? When I labeled it I put “WTF Gin.” We trade barrels with breweries frequently. They age a beer in it and then when they’re done they give it back. We do it at Top Rung Brewery and Well 80. We also do collaborations with Batdorf & Bronson. I got a barrel back from Top Rung that had a double hop IPA in it. At first as I was angry because when I got it back it smelled so much like hops. I wasn’t sure if it was even useable. We tasted the WTF Gin and decided to throw it in there to see what would happen. It sat in the barrel for two to three years before drawing from it and deciding we were going to bottle it.”
With the holidays quickly approaching, the distillery wanted to get this delightful experiment on the shelves.
It should probably be noted that WTF “officially” stands for “What’s the Finish,” given that the gin has a very complex flavor and conclusion on the palate. In addition to the soft juniper and floral notes consistent with Sandstone’s flagship gin, the WTF is earthy, robust, and loaded with vanilla, caramel, and whiskey-worthy aged oak notes. “We have it in pints now and are bottling minis for the holidays,” Bourdon says. “They will be $5 out the door. There is a gift box available too where you can mix and match different spirits to give as a gift. It’s fun to let the community try our experimental gin and see what they think. The whole experience has been interesting.”
While evolving their spirits and business, one thing remains the same: taking pride in the community is key for Sandstone Distillery. “We are always focused on praising the heritage of our community. We have the tools and heirlooms from those quarries. All of the names of the alcohol are based on this area. It’s a natural fit. We just think about it from the heart to represent who we are, what we are, and how it represents the community.”
For more information on where to buy WTF Gin and Sandstone’s other fine spirits, visit the Sandstone Distillery website.