New distillery is a labor of love for local owners

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Al and Mo Heck, and Mac Kenney, with Mo’s uncle Joe on the Monroe farm where they get the wheat for making their vodka. Courtesy photo.
When friends relax and shoot the breeze, ideas often flow. Add a campfire to the mix and you’re guaranteed to enhance the creative juices.

That’s how Project V Distillery & Sausage Company was born.

"We were sitting around the fire talking about how much we liked brews," explains Mac Kenney, one of the owners of Project V, "and we thought it would be fun to build a still and learn about alcohol production. And then we wondered what it would take to open a distillery."

Two years later, what began as a hobby in a garage, became a full-fledged business.

Kenney, together with his partners Mo and Al Heck, opened Project V Distillery & Sausage Company last November. And they haven’t looked back once.

"It’s been a crazy ride," says Kenney. "We’re producing 100 to 150 bottles a week now and we sell out each weekend. We’ve yet to find the ceiling on demand."

The company specializes in making single silo vodka from wheat grown on one local farm.

The soft winter wheat is then milled, mashed, brewed, fermented, distilled, filtered and bottled on site at the company’s production facility in Woodinville.

Kenney and his partners designed and built their own copper stills and through much trial and error, they arrived at the right recipe and process to create their own brand of 80-proof vodka.

"We learned through experience," comments Kenney. "We read books, did a lot of research and talked to friends in the beer and wine business. And we brewed tons of 10-gallon batches of beer to get the recipe just the way we wanted."

The Woodinville man explains that vodka is made from the distilled alcohol of brewed beer.

"What makes our vodka special is a combination of the wheat, the brewing process and the stills," he adds. "We have what’s called a vapor management reflux still that allows us to control the alcohol vapor."

The challenge for the trio was in finding the right equipment, which they adapted to suit their purpose. They take pride in the fact that everything in their building has been recycled or salvaged.

"The challenges are fun ones for us," says Kenney. "We’re doing this all on our own and on a tight budget. We’re doing things from the ground up and we’re thrilled with the success we’re having so early on."

Kenney adds that the feedback about their product has been overwhelmingly positive and they already have many return customers to their tasting room. The goal is to increase production to 300-plus bottles a week and eventually sell to liquor stores, bars and restaurants.

The company also plans to produce gin and whiskey in the future.

As for the sausage end of the business, Kenney explains that it’s a work in progress at the moment.

He says, "We’re taking the spent grain from the wheat that we use and giving it to two family farms in Monroe to feed to their pigs and hogs. Then, we’ll be able to make sausage later."

The partners already have experience in this arena.

"Yeah, we are known for our sausage parties," adds Kenney. "It’s something we’ve done many times before."

Being in Woodinville is a plus to the partners. They all live here and opted to open their business in the area because they wanted to be a part of the existing wine, beer and spirits community.

"There are 34 wineries in the business park where we’re located," comments Kenney. "It’s good for business and the people in this industry are great. We don’t look at anyone here as competition, as everyone’s product is unique. We try and help one another and support each other anyway we can."

Project V is a labor of love to its owners – "the fruit of several sets of hands, hearts and minds."

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