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Crafting beautiful boozes

Chambers Bay Distillery -- Making a splash in University Place

The gentlemen behind the spirits: Alan Davis and Jeff Robinette. Photo credit: Skylla Jones

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Folks enjoy libations for a variety of reasons: in celebration of grand victories, during moments of mourning, sips simply hyphenating bites of a well-prepared meal. Really, a tasty spirit is all about history and good stories and Chambers Bay Distillery adopts this ideal.

It all began at Hudtloff Junior High in Lakewood, where Alan Davis and Jeff Robinette both played the saxophone in the seventh grade. Though, all those years ago they weren't reflecting on their love of the brown liquor a life-long friendship was formed. The two stayed close through high school and both went on to study their subjects of choice at the University of Washington. Davis moved between Seattle and Portland due to his position as a stock analysis while Robinette an embryologist was the first to make it back to the South Sound, Davis soon followed.

The friends bonded over their mutual admiration of whiskey and bourbon. Davis hosted a few samplings at his home and from there an idea was born and they began to experiment. Founded in the summer of 2014, Chambers Bay Distillery began their boozy journey with the Ghost Dog Whiskey. This ghost pepper brown liquor has a heat that lingers. They then released their Greenhorn Bourbon, a young but tasty ocean aged spirit followed by Ran Vodka. Their vodka's moniker was inspired by the Norse goddess of the sea, which is fitting because the spirit is infused with just a touch of sea salt giving it a lovely mouth feel, the edges rounded and smooth. The transition from friends to business owners was an easy one according to Davis. They each have very different skillsets that balance out the work load, "because we've been friends for so long, we know where each other stand."

Early this November, Chambers Bay Distillery launched the fourth spirit in their collection with a straight bourbon. This isn't just any old bourbon though, it's unique in that it has resided for it's entire three-year life at sea. Davis and Robinette opted for a boathouse aged bourbon for a variety of reasons, but to hear the science behind it: how the lulling waves of the Puget Sound creates more interaction between the spirit and the barrel, while varying weather conditions cause the barrels to expand and contract, is all quite compelling. They aren't the first to use this method, but Davis says, "I believe our bourbon is the longest a spirit has spent on the water."

The Chambers Bay Distillery lineup, from left: Ran Vodka, Greenhorn Bourbon, CBD Straight Bourbon and Ghost Dog Whiskey. Photo credit: Elizabeth Brant

Robinette and Davis aren't just using the waters of the Puget Sound to add a compelling character to their bourbons, they also use locally cultivated yeast made from fruit found at Curran Apple Orchard. With a second yeast in the works from blackberries picked at Fort Steilacoom. That yeast will be used in an upcoming rye whiskey or rum. Aside from more spirits, what does the future hold? Davis tells me Chambers Bay Distillery looks forward to expanding their operation from the small confines of their current locale with their two-year plan including the release of a 5th spirit, a bourbon that is still spending some time enjoying the motion of the ocean on a boat nearby.

The distillery's spirits can be enjoyed at a variety of locales including The Social Bar and Grill, Asado, The Mule Tavern, 1022 South J, Pacific Grill and both Chambers Bay and Fircrest golf courses. And they also have several collaborative efforts in the works with Tacoma's Dunagan Brewing using Chamber's Bay Distilling barrels to craft an aged stout and Chef Aaron Grissom of Moshi Moshi doing the same for a fermented soy. Davis informs me there is also a little something in the works with a local coffee roaster. This collaborative spirit translates to the tasting room as well with micro cocktails elevating your typical tasting room experience. Local bartenders from establishments including Indo Asian Street Eatery, Indochine, 1022 South J and The Valley crafted recipes using the Ghost Dog Whiskey that can be enjoyed on site.

As you stroll seaside in the South Sound, know there's a boat full of bourbon just waiting to be introduced to your lips. It's a fun visual, isn't it?

Chambers Bay Distillery, 4-7 p.m., Wednesday-Friday; 2-7 p.m., Saturday; closed Sunday-Tuesday, 2013 70th Ave. W., University Place, 253.292.5962,

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