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11/30/2007 - Triangle Welcomes Dry Fly Distilling

Beverages made at Dry Fly Distilling are an amalgam of chemistry, technology, and human sensory perception. Dry Fly Distilling is the first and only micro-distillery in the state of Washington and is located in the Riverwalk complex at 1003 E. Trent. Their vodka and gin are now in the state liquor stores and at several notable restaurants. Dry Fly whiskey and bourbon will be along in another two to three years, following at least two years of aging in oak barrels.

Dry Fly uses Washington grown wheat, harvested near Fairfield, as the raw ingredient for their gin and vodka, according to Don Poffenroth, co-owner. “We want to take advantage of local ingredients,” says Poffenroth, “so we get our wheat practically from the back of the combine. This is significant for energy savings, and using local ingredients enhances our product.”

The first step in Dry Fly’s distillation process is creating the mash. The wheat grains are crushed, mixed with water and an enzyme, then left for a time so that the enzyme can work – separating the starch component from the rest of the wheat. The filtered starch is then mixed with another enzyme that helps break down the starch into its sugar components.

Following sugar production, the slurry is moved to a “fermenter” and mixed with special yeast to produce alcohol. The temperature of the fermenter is strictly controlled, the mixture is under constant agitation, and the process is allowed to proceed until all of the sugar has been converted. The final fermented mash will contain 7% to 10% alcohol. After fermentation, the mixture is pumped into the ‘still, to purify and concentrate the alcohol. The first distillation run strips the alcohol from the fermented mash, then a second run “rectifies” the alcohol depending on the end product. If the end product is to be gin, the alcohol mix must be at least 190 proof.

Most of Dry Fly’s equipment was made in Germany by the Carl Brennereien Company – a 150 year old manufacturer. The company may be old, and “old world”, but the equipment is definitely high tech and carefully controlled rapid response. Digital readouts register temperatures within one-tenth of a degree at four different points in the largest condensation collection tower. The distillation unit and two tall cylindrical collection towers are made of heavy copper – almost as beautiful to look at as they are for controlling the whole process with ease and efficiency. Finally, the alcohol is pumped into holding tanks.

The “acceptability” of the final product is still based on human perception. The distiller still must smell and taste the final product. “We want the vodka to taste like wheat, not a neutral spirit,” says Poffenroth. “To achieve the correct flavor, we usually throw away the first and last 10% of every run.” To keep the wheat flavor, Dry Fly doesn’t filter the vodka. The vodka is diluted to a potable proof and bottled.

For gin, beginning with a base of 190 proof spirits, Dry Fly mixes the spirits with various botanicals which include the usual juniper berries, as well as unique ingredients: dried apples, lavender, and peppermint. The mix is re-distilled, then cut to a potable proof before bottling. “Our gin, although dry, is a soft gin, and because of our choice of botanicals, each batch may taste slightly different from the one before,” says Poffenroth, “but that’s part of being a boutique distillery.”

Dry Fly Distilling welcomes tours. The door is always locked, but if you ring, they will buzz you in. Don’t expect free samples, it’s quite illegal for them to pour you even the smallest taste. However, on Friday, November 30 at 7:00 pm, Dry Fly is giving tours, and their neighbor, Northern Lights Brewing Companyis hosting a tasting. Anyone interested should call Northern Lights, (509) 242-2739, for reservations and details, event tickets are $30, and space is limited.

For more information about Dry Fly Distilling, visit

Billie Moreland
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