Kirby Kallas-Lewis operated an art gallery before he opened Seattle’s Oola Distillery, and it shows. A collection of paintings and other 19th-century artifacts hang on one wall of the distillery. In another corner, Kallas-Lewis’ wife runs a dance studio. “When I work until midnight there is a lot going on next door,” he says. “There’s a lot of good energy here.”
Also under Oola Distillery’s roof, bartenders at Lucky 8 and Zoe restaurants practice craft mixology. The distillery is fortunate to share space with these two restaurants, says Kallas Lewis, because in Washington, it’s illegal to serve any cocktails at distilleries. “You can’t even add a drop of water to your bourbon,” he says.
Lucky 8 and Zoe both feature Oola’s gin and wheat vodka on their cocktail menus. You can also find Oola’s products at Tavern Law, Canon, and Liberty bars, all within walking distance of the distillery. This cluster of restaurants and bars near Oola is a hot spot in Seattle’s Capital Hill neighborhood.
Oola made their first product on the day they received their distilling permits in 2011. They’ve since populated local bar shelves with their award-winning Grain to Glass Gin. It’s a New Western style of gin, with rose petal and spicy cardamom flavors. There’s also a touch of citrus and a residual sweetness that comes from the wheat in their base spirit. “It makes for a lively palate,” says Kallas-Lewis.
As the distillery grows, they will need another space for their barrel-aging program. Soon to hit the market will be their first bourbon, distilled with corn, rye and wheat, as well as barrel-aged gin that will be aged in their old bourbon barrels. “In essence we’ll be making barrel-aged gin cocktails with bourbon influence,” says Kallas-Lewis.
We can’t wait. And we plan to sip on the straight gin until then.
Spirits from Oola:
Oola Grain to Glass Gin
Oola Grain to Glass Vodka