Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Fort distillery delivers 1st spirits


The first bottles of locally made spirits have won some favorable reviews, following a debut last weekend in liquor stores and drinking establishments.

Former Haines Borough Mayor Fred Shields, who has made three trips to Russia – “I had every kind of vodka they had over there, including the brown vodka, which they said not to drink” – said the Port Chilkoot Distillery’s “Icy Strait Vodka” was “in a class by itself.”

“I think it’s smooth. There’s no off-flavor or off-aroma. It’s nonpareil,” Shields said. “It makes me look forward to everything else they’re going to make.”

Micro-distillery owners Heather Shade and Sean Copeland will hold an open house Saturday to celebrate the opening of the business.

It will be held 4 to 8 p.m. at the distillery at 34 Blacksmith Street in Fort Seward.

Head distiller Shade said the event will include tours, hors d’oeuvres, and non-alcoholic drinks. Due to state alcohol laws, vodka samples can’t be served at the distillery. They will be available at the nearby Fort Seward Lodge, during and after the open house.

Shade hopes to send product throughout Southeast next week.

The distillery also recently started making small batches of bourbon whiskey that will be aged before sale. The whiskey is made from a fermented mash of Washington-grown corn, wheat and malted barley.

In the coming weeks, the distillery will issue an un-aged “moonshine” whiskey, Shade said. “Moonshine is essentially raw whiskey. The flavor hasn’t changed by time or barrels. It’s a rough, raw whiskey in the same tradition as moonshiners made it.”

Locally grown and harvested herbs will be used to develop flavored spirits such as gin. “We’re going to be developing that recipe over the winter and hope to have that out by spring,” Shade said.

After spending more than a year rebuilding the Fort Seward’s historic bakery building, securing government permits, and building the distilling apparatus, it’s fun to finally offer a product and get a response, she said.

“People like the label design and taste so far. We’re happy with the way it turned out and the support we’ve gotten from people and other businesses. It’s great to see our product sitting on shelves after all the work we’ve put in,” Shade said.


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