The science and magic of making spirits
Ben Martin patiently describes Scratch Distillery’s process on the spot.
You know how water condenses at the top of the lid after you boil it? If you scrape that off into a container, you get distilled water. That’s kind of how this works.
This is the science, and magic, of making gin with love.
Staring at the giant, copper saxophone figures, round submarine-like windows, knobs, and doo-dads of Scratch Distillery’s industrial equipment — aka, fermenter, pot, distillation columns, condenser column, aging barrels — can feel overwhelming.
Luckily, technical aspects are only as important as the final taste. A member of Kim and Bryan Karrick’s Scratch crew, distiller Martin drops everything he’s doing (babysitting a heavenly brew) to serve a batch of flavored gins, infused vodkas, and WAquavit in the Tasting Room across from the distillery — set up like the swankiest bar in town.
Legally, he can only serve two ounces max per person, so it’s hard to get drunk. But easy to feel good.
Martin spreads the spirits across a line of shot glasses, explaining as he pours, ready to answer any questions.
Favorite? “Hard to answer that. Depends on my mood.” (Hint: mint- and citrus-flavored vodkas hit the spot when it’s sunny and warm out. Go for the deep, warm heat of barrel-aged in the colder months.)
If you’re afraid Kim’s spirits will taste gross, because you’ve tasted gross before… Nah. The taste is completely different from your mom’s store-bought. Martin says those tend to include traces of the dreaded heads and tails, to save money on a mass-produced scale.
Scratch makes cleaner cuts for cleaner batches, with very little residue to taint flavor. So, you also don’t have to worry about going blind.
Methanol in small amounts won’t harm you, Martin explains. But if you really go to town, the methanol in the foreshots and heads — the first cuts of distillation — can pickle your liver, embalming if you will, and go straight to your optic nerves, he adds.
To prove his point, Martin — also a Nautilus Sailing instructor — bravely dipped his fingers in a container full of heads to taste, inviting me to do the same. I chickened out, but my friend went all in.
To top the tasting, Martin made us a “Fremont Troll,” a dangerous cocktail with Scratch WAquavit, wheat vodka, lemon juice, and simple syrup, 7-Up for grown-ups.
Afterwards, co-owner Kim Karrick slipped me a mini-breathalyzer from Think Twice. “There’s an Uber code for you to use too, if you need it,” she offered, with a bemused smile.
Check out Scratch Distillery’s awe-inspiring cocktail recipes.
Scratch Distillery | 190 Sunset Ave. S. #A, Edmonds
425-673-7046 | scratchdistillery.com
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Ellen Hiatt