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New Micro-Distillery in Southeast Alaska Starts Production

The first batches of whiskey are now maturing in oak barrels at the new Port Chilkoot Distillery in Haines.

Haines, Alaska (October 20, 2013)- The first bottles of Southeast Alaska-made spirits are set to hit store shelves and drinking establishments in November now that production at the Port Chilkoot Distillery in Haines has begun.

“We’ve hit the ground running” says distillery co-owner Sean Copeland.

Port Chilkoot Distillery recently started production with small batches of bourbon whiskey made from a fermented mash of Washington-grown corn, wheat and malted barley. The whiskey will stay on-site for maturation in charred oak barrels. “Icy Strait Vodka”, also made from grain, will be their first product to be released.

“The first batches are coming out very nicely; smooth, with a sweet, flavorful character,” says Heather Shade, head distiller.

Shade and Copeland are also making an un-aged “Moonshine” whiskey. Locally grown and harvested herbs will be used to develop flavored spirits such as gin.

Owners Copeland and Shade built the distillery in one of the original buildings of the historic Fort Seward in Haines. Built in 1904, the building that once housed the Army Fort bakery is now filled with a Kentucky-made, 125 gallon copper pot still and the smells of fermenting whiskey mash and oak barrels. After 12 months of renovations, Shade and Copeland have transformed the building to its original character with plans to add a tasting room and sales area in the future.

“Our hope is to provide a truly unique experience here, allowing visitors to see, smell and taste the craft of making whiskey and other artisan spirits,” Shade said. “It’s an aesthetic process that even those who do not drink alcohol can appreciate. It’s a unique craft and has historical significance as well, as small distilleries are only now beginning their comeback from the Prohibition era. It’s still illegal to distill alcohol at home.”

Because of current Alaska law, Port Chilkoot Distillery spirits can only be sold through liquor licensed establishments and stores. But Shade and Copeland welcome visitors to the distillery to see the historic building and learn about the distillation process. An open house event is planned for November 2nd to celebrate their opening.

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