San Juan distillery reaps awards

Apple brandy nets gold, best of class, gin earns silver

San Juan Island Distillery’s Apple Brandy won a Gold Medal and a Best in Class award at the annual craft spirits judging sponsored by the American Craft Distillers Association.

The Westcott Bay distillery, which opened in 2011, has earned previous awards but these two are the culmination of Suzy and Hawk Pingree’s founding dream.

“Making a Washington state apple brandy that is just as good as French Calvados was always our dream, and San Juan Island’s climate conditions are nearly identical to those found in Normandy, France, where fine ciders and Calvados are made,” said Suzy Pingree, head distiller and distillery president. “It has been a long three years of waiting and tasting and family debating about whether it’s ready. This award confirms for us that it is so, so ready.”

When the Pingree’s partnered with apple grower and cider-maker Rich Anderson to form San Juan Distillery and Wescott Bay Cider, one of the first things they did was distill the apple brandy that has been aging in French oak barrels for three years to give it a complex hint-of-vanilla flavor and rich caramel color.

Sixteen judges assessed hundreds of craft spirits submitted from across the country. The San Juan Island distillery’s apple brandy was the only Northwest brandy to earn a medal and topped all other brandies to win Best in Class designation as well.

The distillery will produce a limited release of three cases of the award-winning brandy in mid-June.

Spy Hop Gin also received a silver medal in the gin category. It won a silver medal at the American Distilling Institute a year ago. And in 2011, the Apple Eau de Vie (the fresh clear distillate that ages into the Apple Brandy) was awarded a gold medal at the Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, and a bronze medal by the American Distilling Institute.

All the distillery’s products are small batch and limited quantity, averaging seven gallons at a time. They are available at island stores and a few Seattle area locations – Wine World in Wallingford, Esquin in Sodo, Total Wines in Lynnwood and Bellevue, and Capco in West Seattle.

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