Seattle-based Precept Wine announced this month that it is opening a distillery. The spirits line will join Precept’s existing Browne Family label. The company will also open two tasting rooms, one in Bellevue and one in Spokane.
“It’s been an idea that’s been percolating for a long time,” Precept co-founder Andrew Browne says of opening the distillery.
The distillery will be located in Spokane, Browne’s home town. Precept purchased the facility, equipment, and product from Warrior Liquor. Browne says there were three aspects of the purchase that appealed to him.
“First, [it’s] my hometown, second, the bones of the facility, and then finally, we’ve got a master distiller who is really passionate about what he does.”
The master distiller is Aaron Kleinhelter. Kleinhelter was born in Clermont, Kentucky and grew up a mere two miles from Jim Bean’s main distillery. He holds certificates from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, Stave and Thief Society, and University of Louisville. He also worked as associate distiller at Kentucky Artisan Distillery and as assistant distiller at Jeptha Creed before joining Warrior Liquor as distiller in 2020.
“The whiskey and spirits industry has always been really, really close to me,” Kleinhelter says.
Browne Family Spirits will offer whiskey, cask strength rye, and bourbon along with a reserve of each. The distillery’s ‘Lab Series’ will be for experimentation. The company hopes to add vodka and gin in the future.
“It’s a micro-distillery,” Browne says. “We’re starting out pretty small.”
The focus will be on locally sourced ingredients. The wheat and corn come from Colfax, Washington, the rye from nearby Ritzville.
“We’re getting really fresh ingredients,” Kleinhelter says. “I’m looking forward to not only supporting the local farmers but just trying these new ingredients and seeing what they can give us.”
Browne notes that the distillery’s location in Spokane also provides another key ingredient. “Spokane has got the best water in the Northwest,” he says.
The spirits will be sold direct-to-consumer through two tasting rooms. The Browne Family Vineyards tasting room in Bellevue will have its grand opening October 27th. Browne Family wine will also be available at this location. The Browne Family Spirits Tasting Room and Distillery in Spokane will open December 2nd. The company is permitted to have a third tasting room in the future.
“We’re going to start with micro quantities of product. We’re going to really understand what the consumer is looking for, and we’ll start seeing where the consumer wants to go,” Browne says.
Precept Wine Brands was founded in 2003 by Andrew Browne and Dan Baty, shortening to Precept Wine in 2011. Today it is one of the largest wine companies in the U.S., offering wines from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and beyond. The company launched its Browne Family label in 2005 with 100 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon. The label has since grown to more than 125,000 cases annually.
“We were making literally one SKU [at Browne Family], and it’s evolved from there,” Browne says. “That’s kind of how we’re going to evolve the spirits side.”