Valley Shine Distillery

A spirited addition to Mount Vernon


What: Valley Shine Distillery

When: 7 pm Thu., Jun. 14

Where: 320 S. 1st St., Mount Vernon


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

It’s been four years since I first wrote about Valley Shine Distillery, back when it was just a part-time operation in the garage of the owners, Ben and Stacey Lazowski.

Ben credits his interest in distilling to growing up with stories of his grandfather, a bootlegger who worked for Al Capone. Gaining their license shortly after Washington state legalization, Valley Shine’s spirits were quickly picked up by the state liquor stores, and when I met them they were still in the process of expanding their offerings to include specialty liqueurs like Bonfire Toffee and Spider Bite anise.

Since then, the couple has moved their distilling operation to downtown Mount Vernon so they can include a tasting room and restaurant. The sleek, urban space just down the block from the Skagit Valley Food Co-op features a glossy wood bar and a scattering of tables in the front of the house, with the distillery and kitchen in the back (tours of the distillery are available).

If you just want to taste before buying a bottle, a flight of quarter-ounce mini-drinks will run you $7 and includes Benjamin’s Bourbon, Red X Gin, Bonfire Toffee, Limoncello, Spider Bite, Revolution Rum, and Ascension Vodka, but you can also get cocktails, beer and wine, and a full range of food.

The cocktail menu includes a drink to feature every spirit made by Valley Shine, so once you’ve been through the tasting flight you can choose your favorite. Since the bar only includes alcohol made in-house, that excludes a number of classic cocktails that depend on vermouth or amaro like the Negroni and Manhattan, but there are still plenty of good choices, ranging in price from $7.50-$10.

The Bourbon Old Fashioned is classic and nicely made, as is the Mojito and both the Moscow and the Kentucky Mule. The Skagit Sidecar is made with house limoncello and served on the rocks instead of up. I particularly enjoyed the Cucumber Gin Fizz, a refreshing tall glass of gin and soda stuffed full of fresh herbs and cucumber—a drink that would be easy to down in quantity on a hot day. I haven’t tried the Bonfire Martini, with rich toffee liqueur and cream, but one of these days I’m going to save room after dinner and go for it.

The food menu changes seasonally and trends toward light, shareable tapas-style dishes, although it’s perfectly possible to make a full meal. The winter menu included a lot of apples and nuts, while the spring menu uses plenty of fresh green vegetables.

I have recently enjoyed the Green Onion Cheese Puffs ($8), which are essentially smoked salmon mousse piled on scallion gougères, making a delightful pairing with a gin martini (available with your choice of lemon twist or blue cheese stuffed olive—I chose the olive).

Pasta with carrot sauce, peas and asparagus ($14) was disappointingly bland, as were the add-on chicken skewers ($4), but I loved the Asparagus and Spring Onion Tart ($7), a crisp pastry square filled with green-flecked cheese sauce and served with a perfect side salad of baby greens tossed with rhubarb vinaigrette.

I strongly preferred the green salad to the barley salad with mint and peas that accompanies several other main dishes, but the pastrami sandwich (made with meat from the Skagit Valley Food Co-op’s charcuterie department, Cured, $14) and the cheddar biscuit stuffed with ham ($13) were both excellent.

Whether you’re looking for a shop to buy local spirits, a place to sit and grab a drink after your shopping trip or haircut downtown, or a dinner destination, Valley Shine is a great addition to the Mount Vernon scene.

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