First Look: Wildwood Spirits Co. Opens in Bothell

By Jackie Varriano  |  December 16, 2015
Credit: Paola Thomas

The gist: When John Howie (Beardslee Public House, John Howie Steak, Seastar) and his partner Erik Liedholm (also a Court of Masters advanced level sommelier) got an idea to distill spirits, they went all out. Liedholm flew to his childhood home state of Michigan to work with Kris Berglund, a Master Distiller and Michigan State University professor, trucking 15,000 pounds of Washington winter red wheat along with him in order to create what would become Kur gin and Stark Vatten vodka. In 2014 both Kur (pronounced "cure") and Stark Vatten (Swedish for "strong water") won numerous awards of excellence around the country and Leidholm and Howie began pouring the spirits exclusively at John Howie restaurants. Earlier this month Wildwood Spirits Co.'s full distillery (Bothell’s first) and tasting room, housed adjacent to the vast Beardslee Public House, opened, giving fans a chance to sample the products and Liedholm the space to recreate his recipes and start thinking about expansion.

The space: There's a lot of personalization wrapped up in the project. Wildwood is the name of the street in Michigan where Liedholm grew up, and the house faintly visible in the Wildwood logo is his childhood home. Liedholm has tried to re-create as much as possible from his experience in Michigan, right down to the gleaming copper stills from German manufacturer Christian Carl, similar to the ones used with Berglund. The stills are visible through large windows that wrap nearly two-thirds of the cozy tasting room. The streaming sunshine illuminates the polished white subway tiles and dozens of tiny shelves that, along with the delicate tasting glasses, give the room an apothecary feel.

The drinks: Wildwood is as Washington-sourced as possible. The Douglas fir and Braeburn apple in the Kur comes from Liedholm's backyard in Ballard, and the wheat is sourced from eastern Washington. The vodka is, as Liedholm says, “as it should be, odorless and tasteless,” while the gin, a London Dry, is a lesson in perfectly blended botanicals. Unlike many distillers, Liedholm distills each ingredient separately and blends them together at the end to create a smooth product. Both can be purchased on-site as well as at retailers around the city — but buying them anywhere else means missing an opportunity to chat with Liedholm (and hear his killer John Travolta impersonation) and tasting room manager Mike Taib, for the duo is full of knowledge and interesting cocktail suggestions.

The details: 19116 Beardslee Blvd., Ste. 102; 425-286-1002