From the comfort of my front seat, I quickly checked my trusty smartphone, to be sure I had the right address. I don’t know exactly what I’d been expecting when I’d made a date to explore Whatcom County’s first legal post-prohibition distillery operation, but the large cluster of nondescript office buildings, and paved parking lot surrounding me definitely wasn’t it.
Pulling open the heavy front door, I was instantly transported to another time and place. To my right perched a petite woman, resting easily in an antique rocking chair, a warm smile on her face, a welcoming hello on her lips, and her fingers busily tapping at the touchscreen of her tablet. Making no attempt to stifle a laugh, I couldn’t help but think that the only thing missing was a pile of mending at her feet, and perhaps a pot bellied stove.
The entire suite had been transformed from what had once been a cookie cutter office space, into the comfortingly rustic living area of a humble log cabin. The walls, stacked with split logs, and fully insulated to withstand any storm that might make its way inside, are decorated with eclectic pieces of memorabilia ranging from age-worn sepia-toned family photos, to newspaper clippings, and miscellaneous experiments (such as moonshine pickles). I was struck again by how, much like the bootleggers of eras past, this distillery was nestled within the heart of the city of subdued excitement, hidden in plain sight.
When Washington state liquor laws changed in 2012, Troy Smith and his family wasted no time in getting back to their roots, honoring the traditional methods and recipes of Smith’s great-great-grandfather, Abe, whose story is told on every bottle of white lightning. They offer numerous palette-tantalizing options, ranging from pure 100-proof moonshine whiskey to 80-proof vodka, as well as a variety of locally-sourced, fruit-infused moonshines perfect for sipping alone or adding a kick to your beverage of choice.
A true small batch distillery, every batch of mash creates just one case of finished product, meaning Smith and his staff are in a state of constant motion. In keeping with their hands-on approach, bottling and labeling is also done individually, by hand, at a small station within the humble production area, while a small tube set plays Green Acres reruns in the background. Seriously, it doesn’t get any more rustic or downhome.
During my visit, which I can assure you was only the first of many, I was invited to sample the entire collection, which at this point includes blueberry, strawberry, and raspberry moonshines. While I sipped from small disposable glasses, Smith explained the many exciting new projects that are currently in the works, including a coffee-infused moonshine (in partnership with Fidalgo Bay Coffee), moonshine filled chocolates from locally based Chocolate Necessities, and a flight of moonshine, served on a branded wooden paddle, just like those used to stir the mash, available at Poppes 360 Bistro.
When the time had come for me to leave, I opted to adopt a bottle of Apple Pie Moonshine myself, and quickly found that it’s not only delicious on it’s own, but pretty irresistible when heated with a splash of vanilla creamer (apple pie ala mode), and adds the perfect flavor and spice to homemade pumpkin muffins (recipe below)!
While these delightful spirits can be procured by the glass at a large number of locales throughout Whatcom County, they can also be found at any number of local retailers, including Haggen, and The Market; I strongly recommend taking the time to visit and experience the distillery itself. For more details, as well as to keep apprised of new products, upcoming events, and irresistible recipe suggestions, be sure to check their website at www.mountbakerdistillery.com or follow them on Facebook.
Megs Moonshine Muffins
3 cups flour
3/4 tsp. each, ground cloves, cinnamon, & ground nutmeg
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
3 cups granulated sugar
15 oz. pumpkin
½ extra virgin olive oil
½ Apple Pie Moonshine
Optional: 1 cup dark chocolate chips &/or chopped nuts
Combine all, in order listed. Spoon muffin tins only half full.
Bake in paper lined or greased muffin tins for:
25 minutes @ 350 for regular size muffins
35 minutes @ 350 for jumbo muffins
Makes 12 jumbo muffins or 24 regular muffins