“We make vodka the way it was supposed to be made,” says Don Poffenroth, the co-founder and distiller at Dry Fly Distillery. “Vodka is a category that has become so bastardized over time that the average consumer and the average bar owner are sick of the word. It’s a spirit that’s lost all of its original integrity. Originally vodka was meant to be a spirit that highlighted the raw material. Colorless, odorless, tasteless was not part of the equation. It became that way when manufacturing became more important than the spirit did.”
So out of rebellion from vodka’s new persona as the tasteless spirit, Don and his business partners Patrick Donovan and Kent Fleischmann decided to show us all what vodka could, and should, taste like.
They make their spirit out of a variety of soft winter white wheat called Madsen that was developed in Washington in 1980. “[The wheat] comes through as a butterscotch, vanilla tone in the finished product,” says Poffenroth.
Like all of their other spirits, Dry Fly Vodka is grown, processed, mashed, distilled and bottled in the Pacific Northwest. And the trio of owners at Dry Fly is damn proud of that, especially now that Washington’s laws have changed to allow them to sell their spirits in more venues, as well as offer tastings to distillery visitors.
Dry Fly underwent expansion last December to double its capacity. While Poffenroth and his partners enjoyed the intimate process of hand-bottling, their new production numbers require their latest addition: bottling equipment.
What’s next for Dry Fly? Barrel aging.
The distillery will release a few new whiskeys this year, one of which Poffenroth says is the best product they’ve ever made. It’s made from a rare wheat-rye hybrid grain developed in Scotland in the 1890s. Farmers in Washington started growing it about 10 years ago. Poffenroth and co. used this grain to make whiskey, which they put into barrels about 2 years ago. It will be on the market in limited quantities this fall.
Poffenroth is also experimenting with aging spirits in Port barrels, and he’ll soon release a barrel-aged gin that has been maturing for about two years, much longer than most barrel-aged gins on the market to-date.
“We just take our time,” says Poffenroth. “Our greatest compliment is that we allow the characters of our raw material to come through. We get out of the way of this great raw material.”