Whiskey Review: Seattle Distilling Idle Hour Whiskey - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Seattle Distilling Idle Hour Whiskey

Seattle Distilling Idle Hour WhiskeyEditor’s Note: We’ve just launched sign ups for our upcoming The Whiskey Wash newsletterClick here to join our list and stay informed!

With the craft distilling scene in Seattle exploding these days, it’s perhaps ironic that one distillery using the city as its namesake is actually located a ferry ride away from the city. Vashon Island’s Seattle Distilling is a “two-family” operation selling itself on the same small batch, local, hand-crafted platform that’s long been a hallmark of Pacific Northwest food and drink producers. Increasingly, that ethos has permeated the whiskey world—where it’s often labeled “grain-to-glass”—resulting in a rash of just-opened small distilleries.

Seattle Distilling, for its part, opened in 2013, initially offering vodka, gin, and spiced rum as well as whiskey. Labeled with the wordy, slant-rhymed slogan, “Purpose and joy in kettle and coil,” all their spirits are made with Washington-grown ingredients, some of them from Vashon Island itself.

Their Seattle Distilling Idle Hour Whiskey is a single malt distilled from Palouse Valley barley, with “a touch of local wildflower honey added during fermentation.” It’s aged in cabernet sauvignon barrels that have been house-charred. I’m a little curious about that last step: I’m no chemist, but I have to wonder how much of the wine’s character is even retained in the barrels after they’ve been re-charred. In any case, it’s aged 10 months and bottled at 88 proof.

Tasting Notes:

Color: Cinnamon; a notch redder than many whiskeys

Nose: A heavy honey note predominates, alongside banana and rummy brown sugar. These dessert-like flavors are cut with a faint, but distinctly sharp chemical note. Altogether, it’s not unlike a freshly-ignited pan of bananas foster. In the emptied-out glass, I also get some winey notes.

Palate: A little less cloying, with more dark fruit—black cherry and currant—evident, and some smoke. Honey and brown sugar are also noticeable. The finish is short and flat; fades to bitter oak and wine.


Overall, this whiskey is an awkward mishmash of flavors, the rum-like character of the nose not quite gelling with the faint wine notes imparted by the barrel. The contrast between heady sweetness and sharp acetone gives it a distinctly youthful quality. It’s hard not to see the addition of honey and the cabernet-barrel aging as attempts to make up for the whiskey’s sprightly age, and none of it quite comes together.

Final score: 77/100


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