The best single malt in Seattle? Check Westland Distillery

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Change happens fast. It's been less than a decade since Dry Fly opened a distillery in Spokane to take advantage of eastern Washington's vast supply of grain. Then came Sound Spirits in Seattle's Interbay neighborhood, the first (legal) distillery inside city limits since prohibition was repealed.

In 2012, Washington got out of the retail liquor business, and the Legislature created a licensing category that authorized craft distilleries. A dozen outfits set up shop in SoDo alone. Today, Seattle has more micro-distilleries, 24, than any city in the country.

The biggest of the newcomers, and most ambitious, is Westland, Built at a cost of $4 million, with a production of 60,000 gallons a year, it's the largest malt whiskey distillery (by volume) west of the Mississippi. And its owners are only 25 years old.

The story of Westland Distillery starts among the giant trees of Grays Harbor County on Washington's west coast, where Douglas fir, spruce, alder, cedar and hemlock grow tall and moss-covered on Federal forestland, bathed in the cold, moist air blowing in from the Pacific Ocean. In that respect, Hoquiam and its neighboring towns, Aberdeen and Cosmopolis, are almost like the waterside communities of Scotland, but that's getting ahead of the story.

Here, at the turn of the last century, a young Stanford grad named Frank Lamb fell in love with the daughter of George Emerson, a sawmill manager in Hoquiam. Lamb started a company to design and manufacture logging and milling equipment, moved into paper making, and was instrumental in developing the Port of Grays Harbor. His son, David, began exporting the machines to Scandinavia, which also has abundant forests.

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About the Authors & Contributors

Ronald Holden

Ronald Holden

Ronald Holden is a regular Crosscut contributor. His new book, published this month, is titled “HOME GROWN Seattle: 101 True Tales of Local Food & Drink." (Belltown Media. $17.95).