The first time Sandstone Distillery entered the Seattle International Spirits competition, the business won a bronze medal for its vodka in 2016. Not bad for a business that had become a reality just 18 months earlier.
Now, the awards come in bunches.
This year the Tenino-area distillery won an award for every spirit it entered in the competition, including a “double-gold” and “best in show” award for its white whiskey, a clear whiskey that has notes of tequila in it, although that flavor has not been added, co-owner John Bourdon said.
Bourdon said visitors to the tasting room will often ask, what makes you different?
Bourdon said it’s not one thing, but a “hundred little things,” such as getting their grains from the the Chehalis Valley.
“It adds up to this much difference,” he said.
Sandstone also won awards for its vodka and bourbon. In addition to whiskey, vodka and bourbon, the distillery also produces two kinds of gin and more is in the works, including Olympia whiskey. Bourdon said the business plans to distill an original Olympia beer recipe into whiskey that they plan to release in 2020.
They also are working with local coffee roaster, Batdorf & Bronson, on a coffee liqueur, which currently is most available at the tasting room, and then the big one: putting a massive copper milk condensing machine to work to produce bourbon and whiskey. Work on the machine is expected to be complete in July; a production date is still to be determined, he said.
Career-wise, it has been quite the transformation for Bourdon.
He drove for UPS for 16 years, then started his own trucking business, which survived and even grew during the Great Recession, he said. But he also had had a longtime interest in distilling. Finally, the trucking business was sold and he went into business with his wife, Jenni, and son, Justin, to open Sandstone in November 2014.
The warehouse space and tasting room occupy a picturesque part of south Thurston County that also is a stop on the county’s Bountiful Byway list of rural destinations.
And they’re going to stay put after considering a move to Tumwater that didn’t go as planned, he said.
If you’re interested in trying the Sandstone product, it can be found at area stores, bars and restaurants, including the relatively new Well 80 on Fourth Avenue in downtown Olympia.
They use Sandstone’s white whiskey to make margaritas and it’s a huge hit, Bourdon said. Justin Bourdon estimated that Well 80 goes through about two cases of their whiskey per week.