What’s new at Sandstone Distillery? Its local flavors are raking in the awards

The first time Sandstone Distillery entered the Seattle International Spirits competition, the business won a bronze medal for its vodka in 2016. Not bad for a business that had become a reality just 18 months earlier.

Now, the awards come in bunches.

This year, the Tenino-area distillery won an award for every spirit it entered in the competition, including a “double-gold” and “best in show” award for its white whiskey, a clear whiskey that has notes of tequila in it, although that flavor has not been added, co-owner John Bourdon said.

Sandstone also won awards for its vodka and bourbon.

Bourdon said visitors to the tasting room will often ask: What makes you different?

Bourdon said it’s not one thing, but a “hundred little things,” such as getting their grains from the Chehalis Valley.

“It adds up to this much difference,” he said.

In addition to whiskey, vodka and bourbon, the distillery also produces two kinds of gin and more is in the works, including Olympia whiskey. Bourdon said the business plans to distill an original Olympia beer recipe into whiskey that they plan to release in 2020.

They also are working with local coffee roaster Batdorf & Bronson on a coffee liqueur, which currently is available at the tasting room.

And then there’s their big project: putting a massive copper milk-condensing machine to work to produce bourbon and whiskey. Work on the machine is expected to be complete in July; a production date is still to be determined, he said.

Career-wise, it has been quite the transformation for Bourdon.

He drove for UPS for 16 years, then started his own trucking business, which survived and even grew during the Great Recession, he said. But he also had had a longtime interest in distilling, so he sold the trucking business and he went into business with his wife, Jenni, and son Justin to open Sandstone in November 2014.

The warehouse space and tasting room occupy a picturesque part of south Thurston County that is a stop on the county’s Bountiful Byway list of rural destinations.

And they’re going to stay put after considering a move to Tumwater that didn’t go as planned, Bourdon said.

If you’re interested in trying the Sandstone product, it can be found at area stores, bars and restaurants, including Well 80 on Fourth Avenue in downtown Olympia. They use Sandstone’s white whiskey to make margaritas and it’s a huge hit, Bourdon said. Justin Bourdon estimated that Well 80 goes through about two cases of their whiskey per week.

Sandstone Distillery

Owners: John, Justin and Jenni Bourdon

Location: 842 Wright Road SE, Tenino

Tasting room: The tasting room is at the same address. It’s open noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays. Sundays are by appointment only.

Online: Find Sandstone Distillery on Facebook.

Did you know? The Bourdon family has been in the news before. John, Justin and Robert, John’s father and Justin’s grandfather, set sail for Hawaii in 2012 in a 33-foot sailboat. But halfway between the mainland and Hawaii, 81-year-old Robert suffered a stroke, still nine days away from their destination. They used a satellite phone to contact a doctor, who advised them to give Robert aspirin to thin his blood. That was followed by a call to the Coast Guard. They said the Horizon Reliance, a 900-foot cargo ship was on its way to Hawaii and was about to cross their path. They transferred their grandfather to the ship, trying to make sure the cargo ship didn’t destroy their sailboat in the process, and then he sailed on ahead to get medical treatment. Robert survived.

Rolf has worked at The Olympian since August 2005. He covers breaking news, the city of Lacey and business for the paper. Rolf graduated from The Evergreen State College in 1990.