Not to be confused with the identically-named commemoration of the end of Prohibition, June 1 is being billed as Repeal Day in Washington State because it's the first day private stores will be able to sell hard liquor in the wake of the passage of the Costco-financed I-1183 this past November. And Canon bartender Murray Stenson is celebrating by doing something he's believed to have never done before: signing a deal to be brand ambassador for Interbay gin and vodka distiller Batch 206.
"As far as I know, this is his first" ambassadorship, says Batch 206 proprietor Jeff Steichen. When Stenson's boss at Canon, Jamie Boudreau, was interviewed for Seattle Weekly's cover story on Stenson this past January, he too believed that Stenson had never before agreed to be a brand ambassador, a potentially lucrative way for star bartenders to do for booze as Michael Jordan did for shoes. (Stenson did not return a pair of messages seeking confirmation and comment.)
"He's always been a big supporter of the brand, so we sat down and started talking about some opportunities and the fact that we'll be going to different markets [like] Idaho, Oregon [and] California," says Steichen, the former Showbox owner who's known Stenson for 20 years. "Murray will be with us every step of the way" as Batch 206 rolls out in the aforementioned states, Steichen adds.
Stenson will take his first step this morning at the Issaquah Costco, where he'll be signing Batch 206 bottles from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. before heading into town to do the same at the SoDo Costco from 3-7:30 p.m. On Saturday, Stenson will sign in SoDo in the morning and Issaquah in the afternoon, while Batch 206 distiller Rusty Figgins (no relation to Chone, or at least we hope not) will keep an even busier itinerary, traveling to the Bellingham, Marysville and Covington Costco locations in addition to stops in SoDo and Issaquah.
Batch 206 also plans to utilize Stenson "for recipe development as we formulate new brands," says Steichen, who, unlike many of his fellow hooch producers, is an unabashed proponent of privatization. "The amount of places that sell liquor goes from 350 stores to 1,800 [on June 1]," he says. Unlike the now-shuttered state-run stores, he adds, "Most of those are open seven days a week, open on holidays, [and] until 2 a.m. So simple mass indicates there's a tremendous amount of opportunity out there."