CadÉe Conjures Spirits from the Isle of Whidbey

by A.J. Rathbun, cocktail and spirits columnist for Seattle Magazine
Photo by Hayley Young • Reprinted with Permission
Originally published in Seattle Magazine, September 2016

The Washington distillery industry can provide many stories about how and why people decided to start up their stills. Colin Campbell, owner of Cadée Distillery, has a story that goes back further than most. He belongs to a clan in Scotland that has been crafting spirits since 1494. It’s in his blood, though it might be a little surprising that he’s distilling spirits on Whidbey Island. Campbell and his wife first visited the region — he calls it the Isle of Whidbey — on vacation about 25 years ago, and they kept going back, making friends and falling for the scenery.

Before moving to the states, Campbell enlisted as an aeronautical engineer in the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force and then worked as an aeronautical engineer and tech executive. But his clan’s legacy was always waiting to pour forth. He just needed to find the perfect spot to make it happen.

The area at sea level between the Cascade and the Olympic mountain ranges provides an ideal humid maritime climate for aging spirits. Campbell started with gin and vodka, which are produced fairly quickly, and has since added whiskey and rye to Cadée’s lineup. “We are in a barometric trough, which squeezes our barrels and spirits back and forth in a symphony to pull out the most unique flavors from our oak and port-soaked barrels,” says Campbell.

Campbell, who opened the distillery in the town of Clinton in 2015, uses 200-year-old recipes from his clan, sourcing the purest ingredients available and carrying that commitment all the way through to the name of his distillery, Cadée, which is the Gaelic word for “pure.” He works tirelessly to get the flavors just right. Cadée’s Intrigue gin, for example, went through 20 rounds of flavor-profile testing before Campbell felt the botanicals were balanced. He has also imported particular port, sherry and rum barrels from all over the world for aging bourbons and ryes.

Campbell’s good nature and sense of humor are evident to those who visit his distillery. He’s as dedicated to giving visitors a good experience as he is to delivering memorable spirits. You can also see this humor and dedication in the video of the Cadée story on the distillery’s website ( in which Campbell, clad in a kilt and Highland brogues, attempts a yoga pose or two under the gaze of Kevin the goat before rising out of Whidbey’s Lone Lake wearing face paint straight out of Braveheart. He’s always telling tales and jokes in his Scottish accent, serving up samples, explaining the crafting and sharing the stories behind the spirit — and laughing. No doubt the 500-year-old Campbell clan would be happy to have Colin Campbell and Cadée carrying on its legacy.

One morning in May, I was rudely awakened as the sun peered over the Cascades by what sounded like clanging metal trash can lids. Familiar with the noise in boot-camp settings, I was no stranger to the clang-rattle that shook me and my fellow recruits from our semi-warm, sleep-deprived peace. As I roused, I recognized the racket coming from the opposite corner of the house from where I slept, but at our second story. How strange! Confused, I set out to investigate and found nothing to explain the disturbance. This went on for several mornings, always at sun-up, and the noisy trespassers were never caught in the action.

I took to the interweb, where after some poking around, I discovered that the northern flicker, a bird, took to pecking metal objects to mark its territory in the springtime. Whether it was metal trail markers on trees or metal rain gutter downspouts, as on my house – it was all the same to them. Loud metal clanging notified other flickers, males and females alike, that my neighborhood was occupied by a virile male flicker.

I laid in wait the next morning, hiding around the far corner, to personally see if in fact it was Mr. Flicker holding reveille on our house. Sure enough, during the first few moments of light, he appeared from nowhere and proudly set about the clanging with his long beak.

Northern flickers are a vivid tan in color and have black scalloping on their wings and black speckles on their breasts. Their sturdy bills are curved slightly downward. Most striking are the bright red crescents on the backs of their heads.

They belong to the woodpecker family, but flickers are the only woodpeckers found hunting for food on the ground. While other woodpeckers hammer trees to extract insects, flickers generally stay grounded and poke their bills into the dirt to search for ants and beetle larvae, their main food.

Though I was not personally familiar with the species, the northern flickers are one of the continent’s most widely distributed bird species, ranging from Alaska to Mexico, and East Coast to West. Flickers found in the West, however, are slightly different in appearance than the ones in the East. The flickers west of the Rockies have salmon-colored under-wings while those in the East have yellow.

In most regions of the United States, northern flickers stick around for the winter, while those in Canada generally migrate south. In some snow-states their snow season strategy is mixed; some stay put, while others likely travel to warmer environs.

What surprised me is how tolerant they are of humans. Just last week, I watched as a lone flicker was jamming his beak between sidewalk slabs pulling up unsuspecting ants and grubs, as though I wasn’t even there. Thus, the northern flicker is considered to be an urban or backyard bird, in the same league as robins, black-capped chickadees and blue jays.

Now that I know who’s making that god-awful racket, next time it happens, I’ll act like any city-dweller and call the police.

Want Fries
With That?

Although we are rarely asked what’s in our french fries, we do get lots of comparisons to what Americans consider the flagship of fries – the ones that come in the red and yellow cardboard container underneath those yellow arches. Our list is a rather boring list since we make fries with only two (2) ingredients. We julienne russet potatoes and then double-fry them in trans-fat-free canola oil. But, back in 2015, in its effort for transparency, the clown-led, mega-chain published its list of ingredients using former Mythbusters host, Grant Imhara, in a video that you can find on Youtube.

To save you from the search (and several wasted hours getting side-tracked by kitten and bikini fishing videos) I’ll share their published ngredients list in the U.S.A.:

1. Potatoes
2. Canola oil
3. Soybean oil
4. Hydrogenated soybean oil
5. Natural beef flavor
6. Hydrolyzed wheat
7. Hydrolyzed milk
8. Citric acid
9. Dimethylpolysiloxane
10. Dextrose
11. Sodium acid pyrophosphate
12. Salt
13. Corn oil
14.Tertiary Butylhydroquinone

The first ingredient that neither you nor I can pronounce (#9) is used as an anti-foaming agent in the fryer oil. It is a silicone-based polymer and also used as a lubricant and conditioning agent in caulks and adhesives. The last unpronounceable ingredient (#14) is a synthetic antioxidant that is added to foods to prevent or delay oxidation.

Aren’t you glad you asked?


We swung by Rebecca Slattery’s farm on the solstice to get acquainted with this year’s interns. Here they are pictured below:

Madison, Wiscosin
“Loves connection to the land”
Degree in Sociology &
Envrionmental Studies

Jamul, California
Interested in ‘No till’ farming
Degree in Environmental
Science & Philosophy

Vashon Island, Washington
Seamstress, Bakes, Hikes
Whitewater Rafts
Student of Theater Studies

Westford, Massachusetts
Rows, Swims, Hikes
Degree in Environmental
University of New Hampshire

Park Ridge, New Jersey
Hikes, Rock Climbs, & Bikes Degree in Neuroscience,
Saint Michael’s College


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est. 1991

est. 1982

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The Harbour Public House opened on December 27th, 1991 as the first non-smoking tavern in the Seattle area.

Ambrose F. Grow

Ambrose Grow and his wife, Amanda, and their family came to Eagle Harbor in 1881. He was a Civil War veteran and came be- cause of the descriptive letters he had read in the New York and Kan- sas papers telling of the virtues of Bainbridge Island. Selling his large farm in Manhattan, Kansas, he homesteaded 160 acres here along the waterfront. In addition to be- ing a charter member of the Eagle Harbor Congregational Church and the Madrone Schools, he was a pro- lific correspondent to the happen- ings in Eagle Harbor and environs.

Grow Family Homestead

Still stands today as home to Harbour Public House

Parfitt Way Management • 231 Parfitt Way S.W. • Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 • Phone: 206- 842- 0969 • Email: click here