Entrepreneur distills his passion with vodka venture

By Kurt Batdorf The Herald Business Journal

EVERETT — For John Lundin, vodka is where his passion, skills and Swedish heritage all converge.

Soon, that passion will be on display in the Craftsman District at the Everett Marina when Lundin starts distilling Bluewater Organic Vodka in a 2,500-square-foot space in the same building as Scuttlebutt Brewery.

Lundin started toying with distilling wheat in 2007. When he thought he had a vodka that could make it in the market, Lundin pooled his money with a handful of investments from relatives and close friends to develop the product design and test the brand. He worked with an existing distiller in Seattle to start making Bluewater Organic Vodka in 2009.

“I had to prove my own experimentation to develop my confidence and skills,” he said.

Lundin, 39, has worked in engineering, construction and project management throughout the Pacific Northwest. His appreciation for spirits runs counter to the region’s reputation for its craft brewers and vintners. He says his beverage is better suited to complement food, not so much as the kick in mixed cocktails.

As an entrepreneur, he’s finding his project management background useful, both in creating his own product and developing a space where he can make it.

“I’ve always wanted to do my own thing,” Lundin said.

The Bluewater name represents Lundin’s connection to the water as a lifelong sailor while the bottle’s organic contents represent a “powerful lifestyle,” he said.

“We chose this superior wheat because it provides us with the finest distillate, and we appreciate that healthier farms are better for the environment and the people who cultivate the land,” Lundin wrote on his website.

To that end, Lundin has joined One Percent for the Planet, an organization of 1,455 businesses worldwide that have pledged one percent of their sales receipts to help 2,984 environmental organizations.

He hopes to have his copper stills, hand-hammered in Portugal, operating by Sept. 1. Lundin is seeking his own state and federal permits to distill liquor, along with organic certification from the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

“It’s a heck of a challenge, but I like challenges,” he said inside the cavernous space as contractors worked in the background.

The recent change in state liquor laws gave Lundin impetus to find his own space to make Bluewater. He said he appreciates the Seattle area and his partner distiller, but he wanted to work in a smaller city. He was attracted by Everett’s pure water and found a welcome from the Port of Everett. The incredible boating community at the Everett Marina is a bonus, he said.

Bluewater Vodka is distributed at the retail level by Vinum Wine Importing and Distributing in Seattle. Lundin will have a limited amount of stock available for sale at the marina, but, he emphasized, “It’s a working distillery first.” He expects to employ three people when the doors open.

Once the stills are brewing vodka, Lundin said he wants to start distilling an organic gin and a limited number of liqueurs. He said he’ll add employees as the business grows.

“I love the creative outlet,” he said. “I get to develop the product on a technical approach, create the artwork, handle the marketing.”

Kurt Batdorf: 425-339-3102; kbatdorf@heraldnet.com.