Westcott Bay Cider and San Juan Island Distillery

Westcott Bay Cider is the second-oldest ciderworks in Washington. We harvest the many varieties of cider apples in Rich's small (acre and a half) orchard, press the apples into fresh juice, pitch a champagne yeast into the juice and slowly ferment it into prize-winning traditional English style hard ciders. Half the battle of making a fine spirit is in properly fermenting what goes into the still. We know how to do that!

The climate conditions at Westcott Bay Cider are nearly identical to those in Normandy, where French farmers make cider from their apple orchards and a very fine apple brandy called Calvados. Making a Washington state apple brandy just as good as French Calvados is our dream, and we're off to a good start, with gold and bronze medals for our Apple Eau de Vie (the fresh clear distillate from the cider) in 2011. Our first Apple Brandy was released this summer, it was judged in two national craft distilling judgings as THE BEST CRAFT-DISTILLED APPLE BRANDY in the United States. It is golden, apply, smooth and so so delicious.

While we were waiting for the brandy to age, we used research skills from our previous careers as university professors to experiment with recipes for gin, fruit brandies and liqueurs, and bitters. Both of our apple- and grain-based gins employ foraged island botanicals to produce intense and evocative aromas and tastes that are great in cocktails but equally worth drinking just over ice. Spy Hop Gin and Barrel-Aged Spy Hop Gin are both silver medalists in national craft distilled competitions. The fruit brandies and liqueurs sip well alone, but we also love them in cocktails.

So far we've been focused on developing products and introducing them to visitors at the distillery and tasting room near Roche Harbor on San Juan Island. The hours we're open each Saturday gather a happy mob to taste and talk in front of our two stills, a 200-liter German Adrian still with bells and whistles and a 30-liter Portuguese pot still just for making gin.