When my oldest son (he’s 14) was younger (perhaps 7 or 8), his most favorite television show was Disney’s Phineas and Ferb. I remember in every episode, Phineas would say, near the beginning of the episode, “Ferb, I know what we’re going to do today!” That is pretty much how it happened in our house on the last Friday morning of our Winter Break.
I had wanted to spend the day snowshoeing, however, Josh (aka The Whiskey Lover) has slept in later than normal and the kids weren’t in any rush that morning. So, after a little while of lounging around, Josh said, “I know what we’re going to do today! Let’s check out the BlackFish Distillery!” He explained with was less than an hours drive away in Auburn and he saw that they had a Rye Whiskey, which Josh has really been into lately.
So, we got up, got going, and set out for the day’s adventure in finding the Blackfish. As it was heading into New Year’s weekend, we did not take into account the traffic, so the drive that should have been less than an hour ended up being about two hours. It worked out though, since youngest son ended up taking a nap while older son amused himself by listening to his iPhone music…read that- THEY WERE NOT FIGHTING!
We found The Blackfish Spirits Distillery and entered their very nicely put together, though small, front tasting room. We were quickly greeted by owner and distiller, Micheal Gifford, who was at once inviting and full of energy! We explained that for us, Josh’s passion for whiskey was more than “just tasting alcohol”, it’s a family affair where we find many adventures together. We also mentioned that younger son wants to be a brewer when he grows up, and that, my friends, is the moment that what would have been just a normal tour and tasting, turned into a lessons filled, more personalized and in-depth experience!
“Learn to be a Learner”. That is what Michael told Lane several times. Michael explained how he has changed careers and had to learn new things his entire life. In fact, the distillery has only been open for three years, and he said he has had to teach himself so many new things, so you’ve always got to be ready to learn something new every day.
“There is Science in Everything!”. Michael talked to both of the boys how important science is, not only to distilling, but in just about everything we do. And math is actually used daily! He had cool atom manipulative that showed the molecular make-ups of a couple different alcohols. And that was pretty cool because I explained that we had just given Lane a chemistry set for Christmas!
“Know how to tell a good story!” Since Lane wants to be a brewer someday, Michael kept reminding him that you can have the best product out there, but if people don’t know you’re there, you’ll never be able to sell your product. And for people to know you’re there, you have to be able to tell a really good story to hook them in quickly (and with in one to two sentences!) He encouraged Lane to remember his story (I have Lane’s story in an earlier post, “My Kids and their thoughts on Whiskey.”) as it’s pretty cool to know from age 3 on what you want to do!
“Taste a lot of food!” You know, this is seriously the first time, in all the distilleries we’ve been to, that the distiller really talks about needing to know flavors of foods and how important it really is to know how things TASTE, and how flavors taste TOGETHER. Be a chef. Take risks with flavors. But don’t go overboard or you can ruin an entire batch worth thousands of dollars! I liked that Michael told Lane he needs to taste a variety of foods…he never said he had to like them, just taste them. And our little Lane is a VERY PICKY EATER, so I really appreciated hearing this and it’s already been useful to get Lane to taste new foods! Whoo Hoo!
“Work with others around you and help one another out!” Like most local craft distillers, the Blackfish works with Washington State farmers to obtain their grains, fruits and spices. But then Michael talked about his friend that is a chef nearby who helps immensely with flavor pairing and when to NOT add any more vanilla! And while Josh and I were tasting their whiskey and liquors after the tour and lessons, we were offered chocolates by Gosanko Chocolates, located about a block from The Blackfish. And wow oh wow, that was some amazing chocolate! (Michael told us the brief story of Gosanko Chocolates and how every single chocolate is done by hand. And they are right there in Auburn! And you can find them at Pikes Place Market in Seattle, among other places!) They boys and I loved the chocolates and loved the lesson in working with others.
and probably the greatest lesson of the day…
“Family is where it’s at!” When we had first entered the distillery part, we met Michael’s two sons who are an important part of the making of spirits, marketing the brand, and running the business. It’s a family affair. Michael told us stories about the family adventures they had as the boys were growing up, always doing something different together, learning together. (Like one time, they made a boat. Okay, not just a boat, but an actual real working Pirate ship that is still on display at a dock near them!”) Michael reinforced to my boys that you HAVE to go to school, because they teach you good stuff, but it’s when you’re home with your family that the real important learning happens. He said to the boys to be grateful for all the places we’ve taken them, that by seeing new places, you always learn new things- about the people, about different cultures, about yourself. And you’re family is there to back you, and you’re there to back them. You’ve got to have your family, it’s what’s most important. Yep, pretty awesome for the boys to hear.
Yes, Josh and I did taste the whiskey and other spirits The Blackfish creates. You can read Josh’s blog at The Whiskey Lover (www.thewhiskeylover.com) to learn more about the whiskey (especially the rye whiskey he purchased!) because he really does a great job going into the depth of the tastes and smells. All I can tell you is that it was good!
But as I’ve mentioned before, and will continue to state, as The Whiskey Lover’s Wife, my job is to celebrate my husbands fulfillment of this passion for tasting and learning about whiskey in a way that allows my entire family to be involved and find new adventures! I didn’t know when we headed to Auburn on that Friday how much my boys would learn about life. It’s been said “It takes a village”, and I believe wholeheartedly that every person you meet and every experience you have is part of the village that teaches our young. Our family would like to thank Michael Gifford and The Blackfish Spirits Distillery for a positive life shaping day! (Hey, we knew it was going to be a great day and experience when we saw that Luke and Michael wore the same type of hat and both had pea coats!)
If you get the opportunity, please visit The Blackfish Distillery, located at 420 37th St. NW Suite A, Auburn, Washington. www.blackfishdistillery.com
***Please note that The Whiskey Lover’s Wife does NOT receive an compensation for any reviews of distilleries or products I talk about. And PLEASE always drink responsibly! Whiskey tasting is an art. We teach our sons that you should NEVER drink to get drunk, and we loved hearing from Michael Gifford that a good distiller simply tastes their product but never over-consumes because you’ve got to keep your head on straight! Another good lesson!