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News / Northwest

Whatcom County distillery wins awards, gains fans

By Alyse Smith, The Bellingham Herald
Published: May 21, 2023, 7:14am

Bellingham —Doc Swinson’s, a Ferndale whiskey company launched in 2017, is kicking off the summer with three new locally made whiskeys and continues to distribute its award-winning whiskeys across the country.

The nationally recognized whiskey company was founded by a team of almost all lifelong Whatcom County residents and Western Washington University graduates but has expanded its reach far outside the county.

“We’ve been flying under the radar here for a couple of years, but over the last two years, we’ve built a whiskey brand that is distributed in 26 states. Amongst whiskey connoisseurs and industry elites we’ve been very well received and have earned numerous awards,” Keith Seidel, one of Doc Swinson’s founders, wrote in an email to The Bellingham Herald. The whiskey is also distributed in Canada.

Since 2017, Doc Swinson’s has won 86 various awards, such as Washington State Whiskey/Bourbon Distillery of the Year in 2020, 2021 and 2022; Independent Bottler of the Year in 2022, and Best High Rye Bourbon in 2022. The company has also been written up in Forbes as being among the top four rye whiskeys in the United States.

“We’re not a typical producer that most people are used to; we are not a distillery and we do not have a tasting room. Instead, we’re focusing on the art of bringing old world blending techniques to the very traditional American craft of bourbon and rye whiskey. We intentionally source the best spirits we can find to blend, age, and finish in house to create something that is better than a sum of its parts,” Seidel wrote.

Online, customers can buy various whiskeys such as Blenders Cut Bourbon, Alter Ego High Proof Triple Cask Bourbon, and Alter Ego Solera Rye.

“We don’t just limit ourselves to whiskey, either. Our head blender, Jesse Parker, is just completing the aging on a new Tequila product that we hope to introduce mid-2023. We’re very proud of our products and you can find us in most local stores that sell whiskey in Whatcom County,” Seidel wrote.

Doc Swinson’s techniques and methods are inspired by the Scottish, Irish and Cognac whiskey industries and are focused on traditional whiskey aging, blending and finishing techniques.

But the local climate also makes Doc Swinson’s unique compared to other distilleries.

“We are bringing Whatcom County and the PNW region to the rest of the nation by completing the final aging and finishing of all of our products here. Our climate is made mild by the proximity to the ocean and the Cascade range, causing a mellowing of the liquid during its aging time here, something you wouldn’t see in a product aged entirely in Kentucky. This produces a flavor profile unique to our location,” Seidel wrote.

Getting word out

Some of Doc Swinson’s whiskeys can typically be found in Haggens or served at Bellingham watering holes such as Southside Bar, Jack’s, Temple Bar and Redlight, or purchased online.

“I do find that most locals have never heard of us, but we’re taking active charge this year to spread the word around town as we appreciate the community that we’ve lived in for most of our lives,” Seidel wrote.

This month, the whiskey producers released three new whiskeys to its retailers and in its online store. The new bottles include French Toasted whiskey, a straight bourbon whiskey finished in French oak casks; Garryana whiskey, a straight bourbon whiskey finished in Garryana oak casks that are native to the Pacific Northwest, and Bossa Nova, a straight bourbon whiskey finished in casks made with Amburana, a legume tree that is native to Brazil.