To sailor John Lundin, the Port of Everett Marina is the ideal place for his newly opened venture, Bluewater Distilling.
The organic distillery, which opened six weeks ago in a 2,500-square-foot space, is just steps from the water — appropriate for the company’s sailing-themed brand — and next door to the popular Scuttlebutt brewpub. Everett’s drinking water makes for tasty spirits, Lundin says. And of course, the distillery is reachable by boat.
“We’re a sail-in distillery,” he says, smiling.
Lundin, 39, previously worked as a project manager in construction remediation before launching the distillery. He has long preferred spirits over beer and wine, he says, and distilling’s mix of technical know-how and creativity appealed to him.
Lundin started tinkering around with distilling wheat in 2006. He moved to Colorado for a while and distilled Bluewater’s first batch of vodka there, then moved back to Seattle to set up shop after changes in state liquor laws created a more appealing environment for distillers.
The distillery, certified as organic by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, is also a reflection of Lundin’s personal values. Its vodka starts with a high-proof, neutral spirit made of organic wheat without any additives. Lundin declines to say where he gets it, explaining, “That’s my one little trade secret.”
The vodka is bottled in U.S.-made glass, a point of pride for Lundin, and the distillery is a member of 1% For the Planet, an alliance whose 1,300-plus member companies donate 1 percent of profits to environmental organizations. Bluewater has so far supported Climate Solutions, Sea Shepherd and charity: water, a nonprofit that provides safe drinking water to people in developing nations.
Bluewater’s vodka is available at some local stores (the cost is just under $30, plus tax) and direct from the distillery. It costs about four times more to make than mass-produced brands, Lundin says, but as he sees it, making organic spirits serves a niche market while also helping promote sustainable practices.
“It means I get to support agriculture that isn’t laden with commercial fertilizers and pesticides,” he says. “Every spirit has an agricultural footprint. And to me, [organic spirits are] better-tasting. They’re higher quality.”
Lundin plans to introduce organic gin in time for the holidays, then will focus on producing small-batch liqueurs in natural flavors such as raspberry. He’d like to make an applejack from Washington crops, possibly an aquavit in honor of his Swedish heritage. But don’t expect any whipped cream or cake-flavored vodkas — Bluewater’s unusually smooth vodka, with a pleasant tinge of sweetness, is meant for sipping, straight up.
On a recent weekday afternoon, several customers stop by the distillery to pick up bottles of vodka. One man buys two of them.
“We have a boat here, so we do a lot of drinking out here,” the customer tells Lundin. “We’re big fans, big fans.”
To Lundin, distilling closely parallels his love of sailing; both take learning, dedication and skill to master. He and his wife, Jessica, who is pursuing post-doctorate studies in earth sciences, lived aboard their 1992 Hunter 375 for more than four years at Shilshole Bay Marina before he started the distillery.
Lundin started boating as a child with his parents, who were avid sailors. He recalls waking aboard to the sounds of the baker on Block Island, south of the Rhode Island coast, singing opera songs as he rowed among the boats selling freshly baked goods.
“I’ve always had a positive association with sailing,” Lundin says.
Lundin and his wife sold their boat in July (“I’m boatless. It’s killing me,” he says) and hope to build a metal-hulled expedition boat and eventually set off for high-latitude sailing. Lundin’s bucket list includes Greenland, South Georgia and the Patagonia coast.
But for the next few years, he’ll be focused on refining his craft.
“We’ve put a lot into this to make the product the best it can be,” he says. “I want to make exquisite-tasting spirits and also have a responsible foundation for the distillery.”
Bluewater Distilling is located at 1205 Craftsman Way, Suite 116, Everett. It’s open most days from noon to 6 p.m.