A natural journey

A natural journey

A natural journey


Wildwood Spirits Co

A tray carrying a bottle of natural gin, accompanied by lemons, limes, and a hint of rosemary, embarking on its journey.

By merging the skillsets (and mindsets) of a chef and a sommelier, Wildwood Spirits Co creates spirits to savour

When Erik Liedholm, Wine Director and co-owner of some of Washington State’s best restaurants, was not at work, he would be in his backyard, experimenting with a five-litre pot still he had bought in Portugal. Erik was making his own grappa (Italian brandy), applying the same approach used to create the best wines, including a devotion to craftsmanship and use of local ingredients, in this case pomace from Washington’s numerous wineries. Erik’s success encouraged him to take a master’s degree in distilling in London, before opening the Wildwood distillery with his business partner, restaurateur John Howie, back home.

Since the company was founded in 2014, it has won numerous awards, including Double Gold for its gin at the New York World Wine and Spirits Competition. Alongside the gin, Wildwood now produces a range of spirits including vodka, bourbon and rye, all made to Erik’s exacting standards.

“We wanted to fuse the ethos of a sommelier with that of a chef,” he says. “We are committed to farm-to-table, grain-to-glass and staying as local as we can. That attitude is in each of the spirits we make. The gin really encapsulates the brand – that sense of the chef and sommelier coming together. It’s almost a perfectionist’s gin because we focus on seasonality, but we want it to taste good all year.

“One key ingredient is Seville oranges, but they are only available for two months each year. We distil them when they are fresh and keep the fraction in a tank until we are ready to blend. We do that with all of our ingredients, including apples and fir fronds from my backyard. We hold them in airtight attenuation tanks, enabling us to blend throughout the year, so our gin tastes the same in January as it does in June.”

Erik has taken a similarly painstaking approach with dark spirits, sourcing a cooper in Missouri who could make bourbon barrels to the high standards demanded by the country’s best wineries. After being used once to age bourbon, the barrels are reused to add flavour and depth to rye whisky and an orange liqueur. The latter is named Solgud – a nod to Erik’s Swedish heritage.

A tray carrying a bottle of natural gin, accompanied by lemons, limes, and a hint of rosemary, embarking on its journey.

“Several of the spirits have Swedish names – the gin is called Kur, and we called our vodka Stark Vatten, which is Swedish for ‘strong water’. Solgud means ‘sun god’. We reverted to US names for our brown spirits, like the bourbon, which is an authentically American drink we call The Dark Door.” Erik is adding at least one more spirit to his fold in 2023 – an apple brandy, to benefit from Washington’s prodigious apple orchards.

In 2023, Wildwood Spirits Co – the name is inspired by Erik’s childhood street in Michigan – opened a second, much larger distillery, expanding its reach across the US while still supplying local restaurants. “Our old distillery produced a barrel and a half of whisky a month; the new one produces two barrels a day,” he says. “We will make all our dark spirits there, and continue to produce clear spirits at the old site. Both distilleries have tasting rooms and retail spaces, as well as a chic bar for a cocktail and a canapé. That sense of quality and craftsmanship is important to us.” And as the distillery looks to develop an overseas presence, it stands the company in good stead.