Welcome to Movers & Shakers; a series where we look deep into PNW life for people who are making moves, doing big things, and who are just - in general - being rad. Seattle is full of multi-talented and multi-faceted people, many at the intersection of technology and the arts. How do they find the time? What's their secret? Well friends, we're here to find out. Meet Movers & Shakers; aka Seattle Refined attempting to capture the not-so-secret lives of impressive locals. Have a recommendation for us? Email email@example.com.
From best friends to business partners, Woodinville Whiskey Co. Founders Orlin Sorensen and Brett Carlile grew up together in the PNW.
"We went to Bothell High School together then we both ended up at Central Washington University,” said Orlin. "Our friendship really grew in college when we decided to become roommates.”
Out of college, Sorensen became a commercial pilot while Carlile worked in tech and then construction.
"We would have late-night conversations about our careers and true passions,” said Carlile. “Whiskey was something we both had a great interest for, so we decided to jump in headfirst.”
The duo started producing whiskey in 2010 with a smaller operation. They knew they needed a mentor and went to whiskey expert Dave Pickerell.
“I cold-called him,” said Sorensen. “When he didn’t get back to us, I actually flew to Chicago to attend one of his conventions and met him in person.”
"Dave agreed to mentor us, and this was the defining moment that helped lay the groundwork for the success we’ve received this far,” said Sorensen. “He taught us the ropes of the whiskey world and we are forever grateful.”
Sadly, Sorensen tells us Pickerell passed away unexpectedly in 2018, "He will always be a huge part of this legacy and every bottle of whiskey that leaves here, he's impacted.”
In 2015, Woodinville Whiskey Co. shared its flagship whiskey with the world and they haven’t looked back since.
“We started winning awards and getting recognition on a large scale,” said Carlile.
The company won "Whiskey of the Year" in 2016 from the American Distilling Institute, and they won the same award the following year for the Rye Whiskey. Fast forward to 2020 and they took home the prize for "International Whiskey of the Year" in San Francisco.
When the pandemic began in 2020, when so many businesses had to close shop, Woodinville Whiskey Co. thrived.
“After a couple months of chaos we shifted and made it work” said Sorensen. “We flourished and spirit sales were up by the end of 2020, growing over 100 percent.”
The company has grown from 8 employees to 35 over the past two years.
“10 years from now we’d like to see our whiskey sold in all 50 states,” said Carlile.
It’s been a friendship 25 years in the making that just keeps getting stronger.
"Being business partners and best friends just works for us” said Sorensen. “Even our wives and family are close, and we wouldn’t have it any other way."
Kate Neidigh is a freelance lifestyle writer for Seattle Refined. See more of her work on Instagram here.