By Aaron Swaney Special to The Herald
AJ Temple can still smell the aroma of the juniper berries and the heat wafting past the century-old stills in Plymouth Gin’s musty basement. Just on the doorstep of adolescence, Temple was on a private tour of the famous English distillery with his family. He couldn’t yet taste the goods, but he was nevertheless hooked.
“I was enthralled the minute I got there,” Temple said. “That was always lodged in the back of my mind.”
Less than two decades later, Temple and his wife, Jamie, opened their own distillery in Lynnwood. Snugly fit into a small location in a business park along 36th Avenue in Lynnwood, Temple Distilling focuses on the types of London dry-style gins that made Plymouth famous.
Folks are taking notice. Temple’s Chapter One London Dry Gin and Chapter One Navy Strength Gin — a higher-proof gin — both won bronze medals at the 2016 American Craft Spirits Awards.
“We wanted to make a classic dry gin that could replace your London dry gin,” Temple said.
It’s not legal to make bathtub gin, so practicing on a home still isn’t in the cards. That makes opening a craft distillery a bit of a risky proposition for someone unaccustomed to the craft of making gin. Temple said that he and Jamie often messed around macerating berries and herbs and adding them to store-bought alcohols. He also took classes, including one in 2013 by the American Distilling Institute that helped him clarify his plans.
“Six months later, we had a business plan,” Temple said.
Soon after, it was time to think about locations. The natural inclination for AJ and Jamie, who both grew up on Mercer Island, was to look at Woodinville, a mecca for craft distilleries. But budget constraints limited their options in Woodinville and sent them to Mukilteo, where different issues cropped up, blocking them again.
Then AJ, stalking Craigslist for distillery equipment, stumbled upon the perfect space in Lynnwood. It was the right size at the right price and close to home. A week later they were talking leases.
“Working with the city of Lynnwood has been great. They’ve been excited to have us here, especially with the convention center down the street,” Temple said.
The building the distillery took over is zoned within a specific development area that the City of Lynnwood works with certain businesses to help transition between the Alderwood Mall and the residential area surrounding it. Distilleries are unfortunately not on the list of preferred businesses, but restaurants and tourism are, so AJ reached out to see if Temple Distilling could be included. The next day he got a response that they would be.
Between June and September — Temple Distilling officially opened in October — AJ worked to perfect his recipes for both gins. He started on a 5-gallon system and distilled individual batches, working to dial them in so they’d be ready to go live on the new 130-gallon system.
The Temples weren’t just giving birth to a business late last year. A month after the business went live, Jamie Temple gave birth to the couple’s first child, a son named Thomas. In anticipation of the birth, AJ built up inventory knowing there’d be some late nights with the little one.
That extra inventory also allowed AJ to work on a new project: limoncello. A few weekends ago, AJ spent a weekend peeling 225 organic lemons to soak in Temple’s navy-strength gin. He then added cane sugar, filtered it and bottled Temple’s new Bookmark Limoncello. The distillery hosted a release party for the drink last weekend to rave reviews.
Temple also has 50 gallons of the distillery’s navy-strength gin in bourbon barrels from Seattle’s 2bar Spirits to create a bourbon-barrel rested gin. AJ said that by the end of the year he’d like to eventually create a rum and whiskey.
“Now that we have our two recipes it’s all about being consistent, so that gives me time to mess around on some fun stuff,” he said.